State’s top prosecutors urge public to report coronavirus fraud

Published 9:45 pm Saturday, April 4, 2020

Tennessee’s top prosecutors — three United States Attorneys and the Tennessee Attorney General — are coordinating their efforts to prevent Tennesseans from being victimized by fraud schemes and other unlawful acts during disaster-relief efforts and the coronavirus pandemic and will investigate and prosecute all instances of coronavirus-related fraud schemes targeting Tennesseans.
Sadly, many Americans fall victim to fraud schemes every day. Our offices are working to investigate and prosecute all schemes related to the coronavirus that are designed to defraud Tennesseans. Our mission is to make sure Tennesseans remain safe from fraudsters during these difficult times.
Although these crises have brought out the best in most Americans, there will always be some individuals who will attempt to profit during a time of emergency. Our offices will not tolerate those who exploit the fear of our most vulnerable citizens. Together we will protect the safety and security of our nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting any fraud scheme related to coronavirus. And, as the central Tennessee region recovers from the damage caused by the devastating tornados, our offices will also coordinate to investigate and prosecute any fraud schemes related to the ongoing disaster-relief efforts.
Unfortunately, during difficult times, bad actors attempt to capitalize on unsuspecting victims. We want these bad actors to know that taking advantage of these crises will not be tolerated. Any attempt to do so will quickly be investigated and prosecuted. To confront fraud schemes related to the coronavirus, U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed the United States Attorneys and their offices to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of fraud schemes related to the coronavirus. The Tennessee Attorney General’s office has made uncovering and prosecuting these sorts of schemes a priority for his office as well.
We have acted swiftly to pinpoint and address potential avenues of fraud. One avenue of fraud we are currently addressing is the hoarding of vital medical items and personal protective equipment, including N-95 face masks, surgical masks and gloves, and disinfecting devices, for the purpose of reselling these items for windfall profits at the expense of public safety and the health and welfare of our fellow citizens. Hoarding and price-gouging frustrate the heroic efforts of our health care professionals who are fighting this epidemic on the front lines.
Likewise, we will not tolerate instances of fraud, including the selling of fake coronavirus test kits, social media scams, phishing emails asking for money, prescription drug schemes, or any other attempt to prey on the vulnerability of our citizens. We cannot — and we will not — allow opportunists to spark fear in our citizens. As frightening as it may sound, everyone is a potential target. Please be assured, however, our offices will investigate and prosecute anyone who exploits or attempts to exploit our vulnerable citizens during this crisis.
We ask for your help in reporting any suspicious behavior. If you suspect fraud related to the coronavirus or the disaster-relief efforts related to the tornadoes in the central Tennessee region, please report it through the link at National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) or the NCDF Hotline at 866-720-5721. To contact the Tennessee Attorney General, call 615-741-4737 or email Reports of suspected price gouging should include details of the name and location of the merchant, date and time of purchase, method of payment, receipts, price of the item in days prior to the sudden price increase, and the price you paid. Please let your families and neighbors know about our fraud prevention efforts and that we will do our part to investigate and prosecute wrongdoing. More information on these fraud schemes can be found at
Please be safe and stay healthy during these difficult times, and may God bless you and your loved ones.
(This OP-ED was released by the offices of J. Douglas Overby, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, and Herbert H. Slatery, III, Tenn. Atty. General)

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