Coronavirus Scams – False Claims Act

May 15, 2020
Coronavirus and Scam

The lawyers at Brown, LLC are some of the best in the country litigating whistleblower lawsuits, also known as qui tams, utilizing the False Claims Act.  2020 has been a year plagued by misfortune with the COVID-19 impacting people’s health and wallets.  There’s a lot of information and misinformation on the internet, and we want to alert people that there are a lot of scammers and scams going around to prey on people in their time of need.  Stick with the general rule, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is. 

Some common coronavirus scams are identity theft scams in which thieves will try to obtain your information such as social security number, bank account number, etcetera.  As of this writing, individuals should be receiving their stimulus checks automatically.  That means if you paid taxes and electronically linked up with the IRS with your bank account, they should be depositing the funds into your bank account.  If you didn’t pay taxes you may need to affirmatively fill out a request to receive a stimulus check.  You can read more about the stimulus checks directly on the IRS site   Also, if you need to apply for the stimulus then here is the IRS link to receive your payment

What you shouldn’t be doing however is responding to people who cold call you about this or to unsolicited emails, that may be phishing attempts to obtain information from you.

Another big no-no is if someone claims they’re going to send you money for COVID, but asks you first to send them money.  That is outright a scam.  Another permutation of that scam is that someone sends you a COVID relief check for too much money, for example a check for $50,000 and then calls or emails you and indicates its an error and asks you to write back a check for a few thousand and you can keep the rest.  The initial check will bounce and your bank account will be wiped out. 

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As head of Brown, LLC, I had the honor to serve as a Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  At the time (I think they stopped doing it now) all the Special Agents took turns doing something called complaint duty when members of the public could come in and speak with an agent to report crimes.  One day when doing that duty, a very nice individual came in with a letter showing he won $100,000 in the Spanish Lottery and to receive that $100,000, he needed to first pay taxes and send in a few hundred dollars.  I asked him if he ever entered any lottery and he said no.  I informed him that it was a scam and the minute he sent the first few hundred they would keep asking him for more and more money to release the funds, and that it’s almost always a scam to have to send money to receive money.  I thought he would be crestfallen regarding there wasn’t $100,000 for him, but he had an air of contentedness and a certain wisdom and told me, “I knew I wasn’t smart enough to figure this out, but I knew I was smart enough to ask the right person.”  I treasure his profound departing words and you should too.  It pays to ask the right person the right question, and if you don’t it will cost you in the long run.  Similarly, if something is going on with a COVID related scam, please call our law firm for a free confidential consultation and we can hopefully assist you without asking you to send money in!

The more sophisticated waves of scams that Brown, LLC will be actively litigating is the corporate bailout money, given by banks and guaranteed by the SBA for both the disaster relief loans (EDIL) and the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).  The latter is a loan that turns into a grant if used for the designated purpose, that is, to keep workers employed.  The program specifically indicates that there are criminal consequences under the Act for false certifications.  Since the funds are backed by the federal government, committing fraud could give rise to a violation under the False Claims Act (FCA).  Blowing the whistle on corporate fraud could entitle you up to 30% of what the government recovers as a whistleblower award and the statute calls for triple damages.  Now, there may be a balancing act in filing these whistleblower lawsuits, because troubled companies may not have the cash to pay a settlement or judgment.  Still, these programs need to be policed and if companies are exploiting programs and not using the funds for their certified purposes, they should be held accountable.

Now more than ever, if you know of an entity defrauding the government, you should call the whistleblower lawyers at Brown, LLC, (877) 561-0000 to find out if you can qualify for a whistleblower award and to keep the system working, even if you’re presently and unfortunately not due to COVID.