U.S. Secret Service boosting efforts to limit COVID-related fraud
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The U.S. Secret Service is boosting its efforts to limit COVID-19 related fraud. In nearly two years, the agency reports that it’s seized more than $1.2 billion from those trying to take advantage of the ongoing pandemic. But with that, the agency on Tuesday reported that nearly $100 billion at minimum has been stolen from COVID-19 relief programs set up to help businesses and people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
CNN reports the Secret Service is stepping up efforts to fight back against the billions more that COVID-19-related fraud has cost the economy “by tapping a senior official to work with law enforcement agencies across the country on the issue.”
The national report also says U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Roy Dotson will be the agency’s “point person” for working with banks to take back stolen COVID-19 recovery funds, and with the Justice Department in the effort to crack down on scammers.
“We see individuals and organizations are always looking for different ways to circumvent the system,” Dotson said. “I think it comes down to us being able to identify different mediums they can use. Obviously, with the modern conveniences today of online banking, cryptocurrencies, this allows fraudsters to move monies much more quickly, and fast money equals fast crime.”
Law enforcement officials warn a spike in COVID-19 cases during and after the holiday season could result in another rise of COVID-related scams.
In March, as a third round of COViD-19 stimulus funds began heading to residents, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt reminded Kansans to be cautious if they’re approached regarding funds.
Among numerous scams throughout the pandemic, Schmidt warned Kansans to be ary of scammers offering to assit with receiving money. He noted that the IRS will not ask you to pay anything up fromt to get stimulus money and that there are no fees or charges associated with receiving payments and no one from the federal government will call, email or text, asking for social security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information.
“Anyone who does that is a scammer,” Schmidt said.
More information on how to protect yourself from scams is available on the state’s consumer protection website: www.InYourCornerKansas.org.
Scammers are also taking advantage of supply chain disruptions and the holiday rush to buy gifts.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission cautioned consumers to be mindful of purchases.
Schmidt said, “scammers and fraudsters recognize desperation and will modify their bags of tricks for the occasion.”
These “tricks” include setting up fake online stores, selling knock-off or counterfeit products and even selling items that don’t exist.
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