Officials warn of scams, fraud, disinformation amid COVID-19 outbreak

Written By BlabberBuzz | Source: One America News Network (OAN) - News | Saturday, 21 March 2020 16:42

Federal prosecutors and government officials across America have increased their efforts to stop the growing number of coronavirus scams and the spread of false information.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently spoke out against the increasing spread of disinformation. In a video released by the White House Friday, he said false information is not only coming from random actors around the world, but also from nations like China and Iran.

This came amid reported efforts by Iran and China to blame the U.S. for the outbreak. Pompeo accused both nations of wanting to undermine the U.S.’s handling of the outbreak, but noted the American people have responded to what President Trump is saying.

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“Nations that want to undermine what we are doing here – our democracy, our freedom, the way that we’re responding to this risk to the Wuhan virus – they want to undermine our activities. We’re doing great work. The American people have responded to things the president has asked them to do to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. We need to make sure that we don’t permit this information to undermine our activity.” – Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State

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NO SCIENCE TO CALIFORNIA'S CRACKDOWN ON GAS

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He also noted there is false information being disseminated about the government imposing lockdowns.

Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf recently dispelled rumors about a nationwide quarantine. During an interview, Wolf stated rumors claiming the Department of Homeland Security is planning a widespread lockdown are completely false. He added reports that the National Guard is going to impose martial law are also false.

Wolf has advised Americans to be wary of disinformation campaigns about the coronavirus. He has suggested consulting local and government sources for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Officials from multiple attorney general offices also issued statements this week, which warned residents about scamming methods and fraud. Scams have included selling fake treatments for COVID-19, phishing emails posing as officials from organizations like the World Health Organization and CDC, and apps inserting malware into mobile phones while pretending to track the spread of the virus.

“If somebody calls them, who they did not reach out to, and starts…asking for personal information and financial information, do not provide them that information,” stated Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

This came just days after Attorney General William Barr sent a memo to federal prosecutors, urging them to “prioritize the detection, investigation and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic.”

Barr claimed the crackdown is critical in keeping the Justice Department functioning during the ongoing pandemic. He added that scamming and fraudulent behavior “cannot be tolerated.”

“They’ll say, ‘Click on this attachment to order your COVID-19 test.’ Well, a lot of times what that ends up being is that attachment is really malware. It’s a virus, it gets into your device and can steal all your information.” – Dana Nessel, Attorney General of Michigan

In the meantime, several state attorneys general are working around the clock with the agency, as well as state and local authorities, to effectively combat these efforts. Some have already issued consumer alerts and implemented hotlines for residents.

Officials have also warned Americans to not click on unknown links and avoid donating to sites that asked for money through cash gift cards and wire transfers.

MORE NEWS: Trump Admin. Issues State Of Disaster Declaration For N.Y.

Private Sector Mobilizes Under Defense Production Act

This article was sourced from NewsMax Politics

Factories that crank out cars and trucks looking into making much-needed ventilators. Distilleries intended for whiskey and rum to instead turn out hand sanitizers and disinfectants.

And an electronics maker that builds display screens repurposed for surgical masks.

All are answering the call of duty amid a pandemic that has so far claimed more than 13,000 lives and sickened 303,000 people globally.

But redirecting plants to make completely different products will take a long time and a huge effort — possibly too long for some companies to help with medical gear shortages that are becoming more acute every day.

"When you are repurposing a factory, it really depends on how similar the new product is to the existing products in your product line," said Kaitlin Wowak, a professor at the University of Notre Dame who focuses on industrial supply chains. "It's going to be a substantial pivot to start producing an entirely different item."

President Donald Trump invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act, which allows the government to marshal the private sector to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. But he did not give examples Friday as to how he was using it.

At a coronavirus task force daily briefing Saturday, Trump singled out GM and Ford as among the many businesses that have asked to start making medical gear like ventilators, the need for which he said has grown into the hundreds of thousands.

"Nobody's ever heard of a thing like that. With that being said, General Motors, Ford, so many companies — I had three calls [Friday] directly, without having to institute like 'You will do this' — these companies are making them right now," Trump said.

Neither automaker, however, is building ventilators at present. GM announced Friday it is working with ventilator maker Ventec Life Systems to ramp up production. The automaker said it would help with logistics, purchasing and manufacturing, but stopped short of saying it would make ventilators in its own factories, which have been idled for two weeks after workers who'd been fearful of contagion put pressure on the company.

Crosstown rival Ford, which also suspended factory production along with other automakers with operations in North America, confirmed that it too was in discussions with the Trump administration about helping.

"We're looking at feasibility," Ford spokesman T.R. Reid said. "It may be possible, but it's not you go from Rangers (small pickups) one day to ventilators the next. We're figuring out what is possible now."

Ford and Rolls-Royce PLC also are working with the British government to see if they can switch over their factories.

"We are keen to do whatever we can to help the government and the country at this time and will look to provide any practical help we can," Rolls-Royce said in a statement.

Although the government can steer factories to overcome shortages, makers of heavy goods such as cars and trucks cannot just flip a switch and produce something else.

It would be difficult to get ventilator or even surgical mask designs, line up parts supplies and train workers to make them in a short period, said Jorge Alvarado, a professor in the Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution Department at Texas A&M University. And auto plants generally aren’t clean enough to make medical equipment.

Companies also would have to find mask or ventilator manufacturers willing to share knowledge, expertise and even factory workers to transfer production elsewhere, Alvarado said.

During World War II, automakers were more easily able to shift to making tanks and planes because they are close relatives to cars and trucks, Alvarado said. Auto factory equipment such as robots and assembly lines aren’t really compatible with smaller items such as ventilators, he said.

Other industries might be better equipped to help with the virus. Rum producer Bacardi, for example, said its distillery in Puerto Rico has shifted to making ethanol needed to produce hand sanitizer. Small U.S. distilleries such as Eight Oaks Farm in Pennsylvania are converting operations to make alcohol-based disinfectant. It will charge whatever people want to donate.

Germany-based Beiersdorf, known for skin care products such as the Nivea and Coppertone brands, and Luxury giant LVMH are preparing to make medical disinfectants in Europe for hospitals, police and firefighters. French cosmetics giant L’Oreal says it is making sanitizer gel.

Electronics maker Sharp Corp. said it will start making surgical masks using a plant in central Japan that usually makes displays. And Michigan-based office furniture company Steelcase is exploring ways to use its factories to make health care items, studying whether it can make masks and protective equipment or partitions for hospitals.

"This is an extraordinary crisis that necessitates extraordinary measures and actions from both the public and private sectors," the company said in a statement.

Even though it might take time and a monumental effort to switch factories to medical products, that may have to be done if the virus outbreak lasts for several months or longer, said Notre Dame's Wowak.

"I think given the circumstance and how critical it is for these surgical masks, ventilators and gloves, I think there is going to be a lot of organizations, government, private, trying to increase [factory] capacity," she said. "Maybe the government recognizes how critical of an issue this is."

This article was sourced from One America News Network (OAN) - News

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