Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

US orders first shutdown of website over coronavirus fraud

A judge on Saturday ordered coronavirusmedicalkit.com to shut down

The US Department of Justice said on Sunday it had shut down a website claiming to sell a coronavirus vaccine, its first act of federal enforcement against fraud in connection with the pandemic.

Lawsuits had been filed against the site coronavirusmedicalkit.com, which claimed to sell vaccines for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, when there is no such thing, the Justice Department said in a statement.

A Texas federal judge on Saturday ordered the site to shut down, the statement said.

By Monday morning, its homepage was inaccessible.

“Due to the recent outbreak for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) the World Health Organisation is giving away vaccine kits. Just pay $4.95 for shipping,” a statement on the fraudulent site read.

It directed buyers to a form in which to provide bank account details, ostensibly to cover shipping fees.

The Justice Department did not specify how many people had fallen victim to the scam, but an investigation is ongoing to determine who is behind it and how much money they stole.

The intervention by the federal judiciary system is part of efforts by US authorities to combat the misinformation that has spread since the start of the pandemic.

Attorney General Bill Barr last week urged federal prosecutors to make stopping misinformation a priority and called US civilians to report all such abuse to the National Centre for Disaster Fraud.

He also warned citizens of a variety of scams including fake treatments sold online, emails imitating the WHO or the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention intended to collect personal data, and others asking for donations for nonexistent organisations.

Simultaneously, the US judicial system is on the warpath to combat price gouging of products such as hand sanitiser and hygienic masks.

More than 33,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus in the US, and at least 416 have died, according to a tracker managed by Johns Hopkins University.

Updated: March 23, 2020 10:44 AM

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