News Briefs

Kansas attorney general outlines COVID-19 scams for U.S. Senate panel

By: - July 21, 2020 3:53 pm
Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran released a statement to constituents saying President Donald Trump has the right to wage a legal fight for a fair counting of votes in the presidential election, but should offer presumed Democrat Joe Biden the national security briefings and other support common to transition to a new president. (Submitted)

If Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran votes against the For the People Act, voters will remember when he’s up for re-election in 2022, writes Lynn Stephan. She says voters will also remember when Sen. Roger Marshall is up for re-election in 2028. (Submitted)

TOPEKA — Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Tuesday scam artists posing as COVID-19 contact tracers had attempted to extract confidential information from Kansans.

People receiving the text message were urged to isolate and get tested for the virus, but the link offered for assistance went to a bogus website designed to vacuum personal information that could be used to perpetrate identity fraud.

“Our office issued a consumer alert on this particular scam, warning Kansans that the text message was not legitimate and not to click on the link,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt was part of a panel testifying before a U.S. Senate commerce, science and transportation subcommittee chaired by Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas. The purpose of the hearing was to highlight examples of people unlawfully exploiting for profit the disruption resulting from the pandemic.

Moran said the Federal Trade Commission reported 136,000 cases of COVID-related fraud resulting in $90 million in losses from Jan. 1 to July 20. In Kansas, he said, more than 500 cases resulting in $800,000 in losses had been reported during that period.

“Everyone should also bear in mind that these are only reported cases, and that it is fair to assume there are a number of harmful consumer scams that have not been reported to date,” Moran said. “The variety of these increasingly complex and innovative scams remains exceedingly difficult for any consumer to wrap their head around much less defend themselves against.”

Moran said there was evidence of people selling products with unsubstantiated health benefits, illegal robocalls pitching low-priced health insurance, fraudulent charitable donation solicitations and imposters claiming to work for federal agencies who demanded payments.

In Kansas, the attorney general said, scams involved people selling products purportedly capable of preventing a person from contracting COVID-19. He said marketers offered personal protective equipment, including the N95 masks, which were likely stolen and diverted for resale.

Schmidt also said there had been attempts to convince people they required special assistance to secure a COVID-19 stimulus check from the federal government. Likewise, there was evidence of individuals filing false claims for unemployment benefits using stolen identities.

“We have reports of scam artists posing as the Small Business Administration offering assistance with SBA loan programs and Kansas Department of Labor officials offering assistance with unemployment,” he said.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.