District attorneys, state comptroller teaming up to fight COVID-related fraud

Legislative Gazette file photo br> Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 his office will be coordinating with district attorneys and other law enforcement officials to protect New Yorkers from COVID-19 related internet scams.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler, Ulster County District Attorney David Clegg and State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli are coordinating their efforts to fight new frauds and scams that have emerged in the COVID-19 outbreak and recovery. 

The United States Department of Justice previously warned Americans about health care fraud, cryptocurrency, investment scams and more; especially as more Americans are using the Internet for school, work and entertainment while isolating at home. 

Hoovler has issued similar warnings to Orange County residents. 

The red flags Hoovler said to look out for include offers of checks for “support,” vaccinations or at home test kits, fake calls offering fraudulent items such as insurance plans, strange emails, donations and a variation of cheap products. 

“COVID-19 created an unprecedented disruption to our lives which has caused many, particularly seniors, to use the internet in ways they are not accustomed to,” said Hoovler. “We must be more cautious than ever about unsolicited offers related to the pandemic. As always, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  As always, if you believe you are the victim of a crime contact law enforcement.

Clegg and DiNapoli identified additional fraudulent signs, such as paying advanced fees for services, fake business emails, federal relief scams and COVID-19 information, including testing and treatment schemes. 

“Taking advantage of a pandemic to commit fraud is reprehensible,” said DiNapoli. 

Hoovler and Clegg said they are enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward scammers who are using COVID-19 to their advantage, and that there will be full prosecution following.

New York residents can report fraud by calling the Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, filing online at investigations@osc.ny.gov or by mailing a complaint to the Office of the State Comptroller. 

“We believe there is a growing need to combat the fraudsters and scammers that take advantage of the fears and vulnerabilities created by the pandemic,” said Clegg. “We can more effectively combat these fraudsters and scammers by working in conjunction with the Office of the New York State Comptroller and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.”