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U.S. Attorney in Tampa launches coronavirus fraud task force

Investigators will target fake cures, fake charities, cyber-extortion and scams targeting people’s stimulus payments.

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TAMPA — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida is launching a task force with state and local officials to investigate fraud related to the coronavirus.

“During this national crisis," U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez said in an announcement of the task force, "we will prioritize the investigation and prosecution of crimes related to COVID-19,” the disease caused by the virus.

To report a suspected coronavirus fraud, call toll-free 1-866-720-5721 or email disaster@leo.gov. The task force will pursue:

• Fake coronavirus charities, fraudulent health care billing schemes, robocalls offering medical supplies with no intent to deliver, and fake testing kits, treatments or cures for COVID-19.

• Phishing emails that could contain malware from scammers posing as U.S. Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization officials.

• Threats to public officials advocating quarantines, threats to intentionally infect individuals with COVID-19, or robberies or assaults of patients leaving medical facilities.

• Hoarding or price-gouging of necessary supplies.

• Websites claiming to provide stimulus funds in exchange for consumers turning over their bank information.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said this week that even before Congress passed the $2 trillion relief package, scammers began sending text messages to people claiming they could make a claim by clicking a link that most likely contained malware.

“Be skeptical of any unsolicited messages from strangers asking you to click links or provide personal information to receive benefits,” Moody said. Florida residents can report such scams to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-966-7226 (9NO-SCAM) or emailing MyFloridaLegal.com.

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