CBS 58 Investigates: FBI warning of COVID-19 fraud

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Snake oil salesmen helped give rise to the federal government’s role in protecting Americans from bogus medical products a century ago. But crooks are using coronavirus to sell the same bologna to people. The FBI said it has seen a spike in scams and other bogus products reported to it.

“We’ve seen an uptick across the nation,” said Milwaukee FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Hughes.

Hughes said the pandemic has created new challenges for his agents. They now rotate time working at home and working in the office to provide social distancing. Hughes said they have a backup office just in case. He also said they have enough personal protective equipment for their agents to work safely with the public.

“We can’t shut down, we can’t close for business,” said Hughes.

Hughes said the number one complaints flooding into FBI offices across the country are related to crooks peddling fake cures and fake treatments.

“They’re using COVID as a cover for all of this,” said Hughes.

Hughes said crooks aren’t just trying to steal money, they’re trying to hack emails and install malicious software on victims' computers. Hughes said the elderly are at highest risk.

“They may not look at misspelled words, they may not thing that’s a big deal,” said Hughes.

Hughes said the FBI has also gone after people hoarding medical supplies like gloves.

“Six million pieces of PPE that was actually seized, and once that was seized, it was actually turned over to first responders,” said Hughes.

He also said agents have investigated cases of criminals selling counterfeit products.

“We do have instances across the nation where we do have fake or counterfeit PPE that’s been advertised for sale,” said Hughes.

Hughes would not comment on any Wisconsin specific investigations, but said crooks and scammers will use coronavirus until it’s no longer in the headlines.

Report scams here or here

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