Justice takes first federal court action against coronavirus fraud

Justice takes first federal court action against coronavirus fraud
© Getty Images

The Justice Department announced Sunday that it was taking action to shutter a website falsely claiming to have access to "vaccine kits" supposedly manufactured by the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent coronavirus.

In a press release, Justice Department officials accused the unnamed operators of coronavirusmedicalkit.com of "engaging in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19."

Text on the website, which currently remains online, falsely claims that buyers will receive kits that, when water is added, produce a self-administered coronavirus vaccine. The website adds that the kits are free if users enter their credit card information to pay a shipping charge.


"In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine. In response to the department’s request, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order requiring that the registrar of the fraudulent website immediately take action to block public access to it," said the Justice Department.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” added Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt in the news release.

“We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft, or delivering malware," she said.

The law enforcement effort is the first action taken by the Justice Department targeting fraud related to the coronavirus outbreak, according to the news release.

The FBI official in charge of the agency's San Antonio, Texas, field office said that battling fraud during the epidemic would be a priority for the FBI.

"During this difficult time, protecting our communities from these reprehensible fraud schemes will remain one of the FBI’s highest priorities," said special agent Christopher Combs.