The Department of Justice (DoJ) announced that it has shut down a website fraudulently claiming to have vaccine kits for the coronavirus, according to a release.
Attorney General William Barr recently ordered the department to prioritize the “detection, investigation and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic.” The enforcement action against “coronavirusmedicalkit.com” is the department’s first in conjunction with the new order.
The action was filed in Austin on Saturday (March 21). The operators of the website were accused of “engaging in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19.”
The website claimed that it could give people access to World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits after they paid $4.95 for shipping, and also requested credit card information. There are not currently any vaccines available.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a restraining order so that the registrar of the website would block access to it.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft or delivering malware.”
U.S. Attorney John F. Bash from the Western District of Texas said they moved quickly against the site.
“Attorney General Barr has directed the department to prioritize fraud schemes arising out of the coronavirus emergency,” Bash said. “We therefore moved very quickly to shut down this scam. We hope in the future that responsible web domain registrars will quickly and effectively shut down websites designed to facilitate these scams. My office will continue to be aggressive in targeting these sorts of despicable frauds for the duration of this emergency.”
The DOJ asks that people stay vigilant against coronavirus fraud and take steps to ensure that they’re interacting with a legitimate source of information. “For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers may visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites,” the DOJ said.