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U.S. DOJ Action Reminds Businesses to Remain Vigilant to Deter Coronavirus-Based Wire Fraud

March 26, 2020

On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block access to a website seeking to “profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19.”

While the DOJ will continue to be active in seeking to identify and limit COVID-19 wire fraud scams, businesses and individuals must continue to protect payment information and follow sound security practices.

The DOJ’s recommended precautionary measures apply not just to detecting and avoiding COVID-19 scams, but provide good advice for doing business online and electronically:

  • Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19 (or seeking payment information or other sensitive data).
  • Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19 (or seeking to do business with you or your company). Know scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way. (Likewise, be skeptical of any individual or organization seeking your personal information.)
  • Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
  • Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
  • Be wary of any business, charity or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card or through the mail. Don’t send money through these channels.

Please see also our alert on How Cybercriminals are Exploiting the Coronavirus Outbreak.

For more on preventing Business Email Compromise scams, read our previous guidance.

Our Privacy, Cybersecurity and Data Management Team will continue to share the latest developments and provide insights as we continue to monitor the ever-changing, ever-shifting legal landscape on this issue.