Attorney General William Barr speaks at a White House briefing on Monday. Barr said the task force will work on "supply chain issues and specifically on the problem of hoarding and price gouging."

Attorney General William Barr speaks at a White House briefing on Monday. Barr said the task force will work on "supply chain issues and specifically on the problem of hoarding and price gouging." Alex Brandon/AP

Justice Department Launches Task Force to Combat Coronavirus Fraud

Other agencies have implemented similar initiatives as well. 

The Justice Department announced on Monday it launched a national task force to combat coronavirus related-crime. 

President Trump signed an executive order on Monday that authorizes the Health and Human Services and Justice departments to take action against hoarding and price gouging of critical supplies needed in the coronavirus response. Attorney General William Barr spoke at the White House briefing on Monday night about his department’s ongoing efforts on the matter. 

“Today, we convened our first task force meeting—a national task force that will be working on the supply chain issues and specifically on the problem of hoarding and price gouging,” Barr said. “We are designating in each of our 93 United States Attorney’s Offices a lead prosecutor who will be responsible in that district for pursuing these cases.”

Barr noted the department began investigating coronavirus fraud before the executive order was even signed. He issued a directive to U.S. attorneys on March 16 to prioritize investigations of fraudsters, scammers and others seeking to make money off the pandemic, as ABC News reported. On March 20, he asked for the public’s help as well. Then on Sunday, the department filed its first related enforcement action. The case in the Western District of Texas involved a website that was offering a fraudulent coronavirus vaccine.

“I want to stress that we're not talking about consumers or businesses stockpiling supplies for their own operations,” Barr said. He cited toilet paper as an example, which some Americans have been buying in excessive amounts. “We're talking about people hoarding these goods and materials on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market and ultimately deriving windfall profits.” 

The Justice Department compiled its coronavirus resources and tip lines on a new website page. Separately, the department announced on Tuesday it’s working with the Federal Trade Commission to provide individuals and businesses working on public health projects with “expeditious guidance about how to ensure their efforts comply with the federal antitrust laws.”

Other federal agencies are working to combat coronavirus-related fraud as well. 

Acting Health and Human Services Inspector General Christi Grimm said on Monday her office has a new COVID-19 fraud alert online. “This alert has general information about these schemes and how to protect yourself and your community against bad actors,” she said. “With our law enforcement partners, we will be vigilant in our investigation and enforcement against those who exploit this emergency.”

Additionally, the General Services Administration warned contractors of potential scams, as NextGov reported on Tuesday. “GSA has received reports of companies fraudulently claiming to be GSA vendors attempting to exploit legitimate COVID-19 concerns to mislead consumers into paying exorbitant prices for products associated with COVID-19,” GSA officials said in a post. It encouraged agencies and contractors to report any suspected fraudulent activity to the National Customer Service Center at 800-488-3111 or NCSCcustomer.service@gsa.gov

NEXT STORY: The Coronavirus Testing Paradox

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.