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Scammers Take Advantage Of COVID-19 Fears

State, Federal Officials Warn About Pandemic Scams

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

rmoore@harrodsburgherald.com

Editor’s Note: This is an update on a previously reported story.

Officials are warning the public about a woman selling fake COVID-19 certificates.

A woman posing as an inspector with the Mercer County Health Department is offering special COVID-19 food service certificates for a cash fee.

According to Dep. Wes Gaddis of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, the woman is described as having dark blonde hair, drives a cream-colored Prius and was last seen wearing a royal blue scrub top and pants.

The woman, who is not a health department employee, is alleged to have sold a fake COVID-19 food service certificate to at least one local business.

There is no such thing as a COVID-19 food service certificate, said Kathy Crown-Weber, director of the Mercer County Health Department.

Crown-Weber said the department learned of the imposter when someone called to complain that a local business didn’t have the certificate. When Crown-Weber asked what she was talking about, the caller said the fake inspector had sold the fake certificate to a business for $32.

Crown-Weber said she then alerted the sheriff’s office as well as local businesses and other county health departments.

Once again, the Mercer County Health Department is not selling COVID-19 food service certificates. And if someone representing themselves as health department employees offerS to sell you such a certificate, Crown-Weber’s advice is short, sweet and to the point.

“Don’t give this woman any money,” she said.

If you have any information about this case, call the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office at 734-4221.

Mercer County is hardly the only place being affected by coronavirus scams. The KentuckyAttorney General and the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern and Western Districts are warning the public about fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites that are infesting the state.

The prosecutors are urging Kentuckians experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to contact licensed healthcare providers. Attorney General Daniel Cameron also recommended the state’s COVID-19 website, kycovid19.ky.gov, which contains guidance on when to seek care for COVID-19 symptoms.

According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, scammers may use fraudulent testing sites to obtain personal information and payment from patients, often without fully processing the tests or providing patients with the results.

“Just a few weeks ago, our office opened an investigation into pop-up COVID-19 testing sites in Louisville after learning they were engaging in questionable practices, and we’re prepared to go after any testing site that seeks to take advantage of Kentuckians during the pandemic,” said Attorney General Cameron.

The following tips should be used to avoid fraudulent COVID-19 testing sites:

• Contact a trusted, licensed healthcare provider if you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and believe you need to be tested.

• Avoid any testing site that requires up-front payments or payments in cash only.

• Contact your local health department to confirm the validity of a testing site.

The attorney general and the federal prosecutors have partnered with the FBI to launch the Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force. The mission of the task force is to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic impacting Kentuckians.

If you believe you are a victim of a COVID-19 scam, report it by visiting ag.ky.gov/scams or by calling 1-888-432-9257.

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