Several US government agencies are embarking on a new approach to COVID-19 virus scams. Scammers are using phones, the internet, and email to try to entice people to spend money to be guaranteed among the first to get a vaccine.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is launching what it calls “Operation Stolen Promise 2.0”.  It is the next step in ongoing law enforcement efforts designed to identify and prevent illegal virus related products and drugs and illegal attempts to sell them.
ICE Homeland Security Investigations has the new effort moving into high gear as it works with a number of major drug companies that are legally preparing vaccines for approval and eventual distribution worldwide.

The threat is real. We’ve already seen large criminal enterprises around the globe trying hard to cash in on virus fears of Americans, and people worldwide. Derek Benner is Executive Associate Director of the Homeland Security Investigations Unit. He says, “We are committed to protecting the American public and global supply chain from fraud related to COVID vaccines and treatments. We will continue to use our broad legal authorities and longstanding relationships with domestic and international law enforcement agencies and private sector partners to address this emerging public health threat, and will sustain our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks seeking to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE HSI has been at the forefront of the government’s investigative response to COVID-19-related crime since the onset of the pandemic and will remain a leader in the fight to prevent vaccine fraud and to protect the health and safety of Americans.”

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The HSI unit is working to disrupt and break apart fraudulent criminal networks through such methods as blocking websites used to promote scam products. Already, more than 70 thousand scam based websites have been identified and more are popping up every day. The unit is offering information the public can use to stay protected against scam artists. Most of that information is available by visiting www.ice.gov

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