COVID-19 fraud and counterfeits
Federal agencies continue to fight corinavirus scams
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has received 19,960 complaints about businesses pushing fraudulent products or services related to the coronavirus. Last week, the FTC warned 45 businesses—among them a company peddling music to boost immune response against the virus—to stop making false claims about coronavirus treatments. The full list of warning letters is here.
- The Federal Bureau of Investigations reported a spike in scammers asking for cryptocurrency to pay for non-existent COVID-19 products and treatments.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement is working with the private sector to identify suspicious shipments and take down suspect online listings for masks and other gear in short supply.
- Homeland Security Investigations and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in El Paso, Texas report that they have seized $140,000 worth of fraudulent COVID-19-related goods in recent weeks, among them unauthorized COVID-19 test kits, unapproved antiviral products and unapproved face masks.
- The U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh has charged a New York man with fraud after he used his telemedicine website to sell stolen coronavirus test kits to patients, and never gave them the results.
At the state level, authorities in Connecticut reported a sharp increase in formal complaints, and Georgia and Maine warned about COVID-19 texting scams. The Washington State Attorney General sent a microbiologist in Seattle a cease and desist letter after he sold (and injected people with) an unlicensed substance he is calling a COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA has not licensed a COVID-19 vaccine.
Elsewhere in the world, regulators in Finland, France, Switzerland and Canada have posted warnings about the fraudulent COVID-19 products. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre reports that Canadians have lost at least $1.2 million to coronavirus scams.
More than 115,000 COVID-19-related website names have been registered since January. Many of those websites are selling black market masks, fake COVID-19 tests or vaccines, and unregulated pharmaceuticals. PSM has launched a campaign to give law enforcement the tools they need to shut down these sites. Learn more and send your own letter to congress.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a perspective by two legal scholars who believe importing drugs from Canada will not lower prices, and may be unlawful.
Other counterfeit drugs in the news
- The Ouachita Citizen reported about Louisiana State University student Graham Jordan who died of fentanyl poisoning in 2017 after he took a counterfeit Xanax.
- Nicholas B. Brown pleaded guilty to manslaughter after he sold the counterfeit OxyContin pills that killed a 38-year-old Alliance, Ohio man.
- Longmont, Colorado resident Joshua Ward has pleaded guilty to four felony counts related to trafficking methamphetamine and fentanyl pills.
- Agents in Arizona seized counterfeit fentanyl pills at Nogales International Airport and in Yuma, and shut down a pill-making operation in Prescott Valley. Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration seized 48,000 suspected fentanyl pills during a drug bust in Washington State.
- CBP intercepted counterfeit prescription Cialis and Viagra pills in Louisville, Kentucky
Even as we are dealing with the pandemic, PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs. Check back for next week’s summary.