WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Many scams in the infancy stages of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak were centered around phony miracle cures or the inflating the prices of personal protective equipment. Now, as the summer months near and the pandemic continues, the fraudulent maneuvers by criminals have evolved into highly-sophisticated scamming.
Law enforcement officials report seeing upticks in healthcare fraud; fraudulent billing for services not received and charges for unnecessary procedures.
Criminals have also begin targeting the economic relief money Congress approved in the Cares Act, according to the FBI. Stolen identities have been used to claim unemployment benefits and funds meant to help small businesses through the paycheck protection program.
“If you put three trillion dollars out there, people will take advantage of it,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham who worries law enforcement is a step or two behind the schemes. “And I’ll share your frustration. There’s been a lot of generalities here. We’d like to know what can we do? What’s going on, who’s doing it? How wide spread is it?”
The Department of Justice created a unit specifically to investigate fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So far, law enforcement officials said they have already identified hundreds of millions of dollars in potential fraud.