Feds launch task force with West Virginia to fight coronavirus scams

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A task force to prosecute scams in West Virginia during the new coronavirus pandemic has been launched by federal and state officials.

The West Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force will investigate online, phone and price-gouging scams targeting people in the state, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Tuesday.

“Our Consumer Protection Division and its investigators have fielded hundreds of reports from those faced with price gouging, landlord-tenant issues and vacation/event cancellations,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

The state has been sending warning letters to businesses to protect consumers, Morrisey added.

Other scams include people attempting to sell fake cures for the virus as well as fake shops, websites and social media accounts claiming to sell high-demand medical supplies, such as surgical masks.

For most people, the coronavirus known as COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Scammers are also targeting people through fraudulent charity accounts, sending emails posing as global health organizations, and as doctors to demand payment for treating a friend or relative for the virus.

The task force, which will be led by two U.S. attorneys and a deputy state attorney general in West Virginia, will include multiple state and federal investigators, including the FBI.

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