justice department

Justice Department Takes First Legal Action Against Coronavirus Scam Websites

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order to have a website selling fake vaccine kits shut down immediately.

Less than a week after Attorney General William Barr issued an order to U.S. attorneys to focus on prosecuting scammers profiting from coronavirus panic, the Justice Department brought its first case of alleged fraud related to coronavirus to federal court on Sunday.

The enforcement action was filed in Austin, Tex. against operators of an allegedly fraudulent website, “coronavirusmedicalkit.com,” which purported to sell World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits in exchange for a $4.95 shipping fee, according to a Justice Department press release. Of course, no COVID-19 vaccines are publicly available right now, and the WHO is not releasing any such kits.

As a result of the legal filing, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order that requires the operators of the coronavirus website to block public access to the site. The federal investigation into the operators, who are accused of engaging in a wire fraud scheme, will continue after the site is shut down.

Christopher Combs, Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s San Antonio field office, said in a statement that protecting Americans from “reprehensible fraud schemes” will be one of the FBI’s highest priorities during the coronavirus pandemic.

“At a time when we face such unprecedented challenges with the COVID-19 crisis, Americans are understandably desperate to find solutions to keep their families safe and healthy,” Combs said. “Fraudsters who seek to profit from their fear and uncertainty, by selling bogus vaccines or cures, not only steal limited resources from our communities, they pose an even greater danger by spreading misinformation and creating confusion.”

Barr’s directive to prioritize fraud schemes led the U.S. attorney’s office in the Western District of Texas to act quickly to shut down the scam, U.S. Attorney John F. Bash said.

“We hope in the future that responsible web domain registrars will quickly and effectively shut down websites designed to facilitate these scams,” Bash said. “My office will continue to be aggressive in targeting these sorts of despicable frauds for the duration of this emergency.”

The Justice Department did not name the operators of the website, filing a “John Doe” suit, and did not disclose how many people paid the $4.95 fee by submitting credit card information, The Washington Post reported. One department official told the Post that the DOJ does not know the true identity of the operator, who may have used an alias to register the domain.

“You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered,” the site read. “There are two parts to the kit: one holds pellets containing the chemical machinery that synthesises the end product, and the other holds pellets containing instructions that tell the drug which compound to create. Mix two parts together in a chosen combination, add water, and the treatment is ready.”

Coronavirus-related fraud has grown exponentially over the past few months as hackers and scammers seek to profit from confusion and fear among the general public. Those scams include the sale of fake cures and phishing email campaigns seeking to infect computers with malware.

And while the Justice Department may act aggressively to investigate and prosecute fraud related to the pandemic, coronavirus scams will likely grow over the next few months, according to a report from Moody’s Investor Service, The Washington Post reported that the Moody analysis found that as more workers log into their employer networks from home, those networks will be more susceptible to cyber attacks and malware on their employees’ personal devices.

“There’s fraudsters all over the world that will look at this epidemic as an opportunity,” a Justice Department official told the Post.

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • The Power of a Layered Approach to Safety

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown. Read Now

  • How a Security System Can Enhance Arena Safety and the Fan Experience

    Ensuring guests have both a memorable experience and a safe one is no small feat for your physical security team. Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, and other large event venues are increasingly leveraging new technologies to transform the fan experience and maintain a high level of security. The goal is to preserve the integrity and excitement of the event while enhancing security and remaining “behind the scenes.” Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC)

    The latest Qualcomm® Vision Intelligence Platform offers next-generation smart camera IoT solutions to improve safety and security across enterprises, cities and spaces. The Vision Intelligence Platform was expanded in March 2022 with the introduction of the QCS7230 System-on-Chip (SoC), which delivers superior artificial intelligence (AI) inferencing at the edge. 3

  • A8V MIND

    A8V MIND

    Hexagon’s Geosystems presents a portable version of its Accur8vision detection system. A rugged all-in-one solution, the A8V MIND (Mobile Intrusion Detection) is designed to provide flexible protection of critical outdoor infrastructure and objects. Hexagon’s Accur8vision is a volumetric detection system that employs LiDAR technology to safeguard entire areas. Whenever it detects movement in a specified zone, it automatically differentiates a threat from a nonthreat, and immediately notifies security staff if necessary. Person detection is carried out within a radius of 80 meters from this device. Connected remotely via a portable computer device, it enables remote surveillance and does not depend on security staff patrolling the area. 3

  • Mobile Safe Shield

    Mobile Safe Shield

    SafeWood Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of patented bullet resistant products, is excited to announce the launch of the Mobile Safe Shield. The Mobile Safe Shield is a moveable bullet resistant shield that provides protection in the event of an assailant and supplies cover in the event of an active shooter. With a heavy-duty steel frame, quality castor wheels, and bullet resistant core, the Mobile Safe Shield is a perfect addition to any guard station, security desks, courthouses, police stations, schools, office spaces and more. The Mobile Safe Shield is incredibly customizable. Bullet resistant materials are available in UL 752 Levels 1 through 8 and include glass, white board, tack board, veneer, and plastic laminate. Flexibility in bullet resistant materials allows for the Mobile Safe Shield to blend more with current interior décor for a seamless design aesthetic. Optional custom paint colors are also available for the steel frame. 3