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Arizona, federal agencies unite to combat coronavirus scams

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office shows phony coronavirus cures that a British man tried to smuggle into the United States. Frank Richard Ludlow, 59, of West Sussex in the U.K., was charged Wednesday, April 1, 2020 in Los Angeles federal court with introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce and could face up to three years in federal prison if convicted, according to the U.S. attorney's office. (U.S. Attorney's Office via AP)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Wednesday the formation of a joint task force along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to combat fraud related to the coronavirus outbreak.

The task force, made up of a dozen members from local and federal agencies, including the FBI, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division and the Defense Criminal Investigative Services, will investigate fraud claims quicker and more efficiently, the Attorney General’s Office said in a press release.

Scams offering miracle coronavirus treatments or vaccines have targeted people through texts, emails and social media.

Brnovich has issued cease-and-desists to two companies this week selling fraudulent products touted as useful to fight the coronavirus.

The Federal Trade Commission had reported almost 12,000 consumer complaints related to the coronavirus of April 6, more than half of which were fraud-related, according to the attorney general’s office. In total, consumers lost $8.39 million through those scams.

“It’s not surprising con artists are taking advantage of headlines and exploiting COVID-19 concerns and anxieties of consumers,” Brnovich said in the release.

“The launch of this new COVID-19 Task Force with our federal and local partners will maximize our resources and help ensure we are prepared to combat new and evolving consumer threats.”

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office released a list of tips to avoid being scammed, which included not responding to requests for personal information in exchange for a stimulus check; ignoring email, online advertisements or unsolicited sales pitch offers for a vaccine or treatment; and being careful of buying personal protective equipment from third-party vendors.

The office also encouraged those who believe they have been a target of a scam to report it to the task force.

Complaints can be filed with the Arizona AG office, the FBI’s IC3 for internet scams or the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline, which can be reached by phone at 1-800-720-5721 or by email at disaster@leo.gov.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

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