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FBI warns about new scams related to COVID-19 after new variant shows up in metro Detroit

Posted at 5:15 AM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 12:05:14-05

(WXYZ) — The FBI in Detroit is warning of another potential rush of scams relating to COVID-19, and it comes as a response to the new variant, B.1.1.7, which has just popped up in metro Detroit.

Related: Detroit FBI 'laser-focused' on preventing acts of domestic terrorism in Michigan

With the spread of the more contagious strain, it could open the door for another rush of criminals looking to exploit the pandemic and cash in, cheating the public.

Related: Meet the new Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Detroit Field Office

Timothy Waters, the FBI Special Agent in Charge in Detroit, said criminals are working hard to take advantage of the new COVID-19 variant, preying on people's fears.

Related: Submit a tip to the FBI tip line online here

"There's been a litany of different schemes. Everything from fraudulent PPE and payroll protection funds. People trying defraud that," he said. "Whenever you have an influx of money from the federal government, there's going to be fraud. We are aware of that."

Millions in federal relief funding have been targeted. The money was designed to save struggling businesses from having to close their doors and lay off workers.

The FBI and U.S. attorneys say they're going after anyone committing these acts. They're also reminding consumers the number one thing to keep in mind.

Related: Watch: FBI Detroit Special Agent in Charge on domestic terrorism, cyber threats & more

"Buy from a trusted source," Waters said. "They don't have to go to non-descript websites to get PPE, it's out there. Be smart about how you're shopping."

Related: New FBI Special Agent in Charge in Detroit: The public is instrumental in the work we do every day

Feds say safely buying masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and other PPE, means maintaining an extra layer of scrutiny. Check the reviews and where items were made, now more than ever.

Thankfully, Waters said shoppers have more options now than before.

“When COVID first started last March, there was a gigantic rush for PPE and a shortage, because manufacturing wasn’t ready for that," he said. “Supply and demand isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than in used to be.”

The FBI is reminding the public, anyone who scams the government out of funding will be prosecuted federally, meaning the toughest sentences under the justice system.