Operation Stolen Promise: 4 Central Pillars
HSI will leverage existing relationships in both the private sector and law enforcement communities and build new partnerships to combat COVID-19 related fraud and criminal activity.
- Partnering with both government and industry partners around the world will enable HSI to comprehensively and effectively prevent and investigate criminal activity surrounding the pandemic. Strong partnerships are critical to strengthening global supply-chain security and will ultimately protect the American public from victimization.
- On May 5, 2020 ICE announced that industry experts from Pfizer, 3M, Citi, Alibaba, Amazon and Merck have joined forces with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) criminal investigators in an unprecedented public-private partnership to combat fraud and other illegal activity surrounding COVID-19.
Government and Law Enforcement Partners
- HSI works alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on a daily basis to identify and investigate the illegal import and export of prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
- As of May 4, 2020, HSI and CBP have collaborated to seize 494 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited COVID-19 test kits, treatment kits, homeopathic remedies, purported anti-viral products and personal protective equipment (PPE).
- HSI also works closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the Department of Justice (DOJ) Consumer Protection Branch (CPB), the DOJ Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS), U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, and other federal, state, and local agencies to investigate and prosecute all forms of COVID-19 related fraud and criminal activity.
- With over 80 international offices in more than 50 countries, HSI has one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
- Positioned within embassies, consulates, and combatant commands around the world, HSI personnel abroad are leveraging relationships with other nations to exchange information and to jointly investigate illicit COVID-19 fraud schemes.
- HSI special agents are engaging foreign law enforcement and customs partners to prevent shipments of prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies from reaching the U.S., and to disrupt or dismantle illegal supply networks at the point of origin.
Private Sector Partnerships
- The HSI-led Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center, which stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combatting global intellectual property theft and enforcing international trade laws, is working with its 25 federal and industry partners to identify, interdict, and investigate individuals, companies, and criminal organizations engaging in the illegal importation of COVID-19 related products.
- HSI is also working closely with banks, money services businesses (MSBs), and other financial institutions to identify, target, and disrupt COVID-19 financial fraud schemes.
- HSI is leveraging its partnership with the cyber security industry and its cyber threat intelligence capabilities to identify and take down websites being utilized to facilitate COVID-19 related fraud and criminal activity.
HSI, in conjunction with its partners will develop and pursue actionable intelligence and investigative leads into those criminally exploiting the pandemic.
- Operation Stolen Promise will focus on global trade investigations, cybercrime investigations, and financial fraud investigations, and will utilize HSI’s Intelligence and International Operations Divisions to enhance and support the initiative on a global scale.
The National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center, which stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combatting global intellectual property (IP) theft and enforcement of its international trade laws, will serve as the primary government entity for the exchange of information and intelligence related to COVID-19 illicit criminal activity.
The Illicit Finance and Proceeds of Crime Unit will work closely with the Department of Justice, Consumer Protection Branch in support of HSI investigations related to COVID-19 fraud. Scammers have attempted to profit from the pandemic through fraudulent fundraising for fake charities, various medical scams and online sales of counterfeit medicines and medical supplies, such as testing kits and personal protective equipment. HSI will direct Special Agents to pursue criminals who are engaged in crimes of victimization, with a particular focus on those who exploit vulnerable populations including the elderly.
The Cyber Crimes Center and its cybersecurity partners will use the full extent of their investigative, analytical and technical resources to collaboratively process and enrich data to target individuals and criminal organizations attempting to exploit this pandemic for illegal financial gains via fraudulent schemes. The Center is committed to increasing enforcement by targeting online platforms and dark web sites enabling the sale and distribution of illicit materials related to COVID-19 and victimizing the American people.
HSI International Operations will work alongside domestic and foreign law enforcement, regulatory agencies, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations to identify, interdict, and investigate COVID-19 related financial schemes targeting both the public and private sectors, to include government, businesses, and individuals.
HSI will utilize the full breadth of its authorities to disrupt and dismantle fraud schemes, takedown illicit websites and other illegal online marketplaces, and seize counterfeit or illicit pharmaceuticals and medical devices. HSI will arrest criminals and dismantle their operations.
- Since Operation Stolen Promise’s inception, HSI special agents have seized over $3.2 million dollars in illicit proceeds; made 11 arrests; executed 21 search warrants; conducted 121 disruptions of potential criminal activity; sinkholed thousands of illicit websites; and seized hundreds of shipments of prohibited pharmaceuticals or medical supplies.
In the midst of a relentless global pandemic, the American people are counting on law enforcement to protect the vulnerable and ensure that every city and town is safe from individuals and organizations intent on inflicting even greater suffering. This is why the men and women of HSI are focused on identifying and dismantling these schemes rapidly and effectively, allowing the public to focus on the health and safety of their loved ones.
Faced with an unprecedented global health crisis, HSI has continued its efforts to advance the agency’s mission. In field offices throughout the country and around the world, the HSI workforce remains dedicated to upholding public safety at a time when such commitment and sacrifice carry with it an even greater risk.
The hundreds of seizures made and thousands of websites sinkholed in furtherance of this initiative keep prohibited pharmaceuticals, testing kits, medical supplies, and purported treatment products out of the hands of American consumers. HSI’s work in the financial fraud arena prevents Americans from being victimized by scammers and helps secure the integrity of the financial system. The impact these efforts have on the American public cannot be understated.
One of the main goals of Operation Stolen Promise is to educate the public on the various types of fraudulent activity targeting innocent victims, how to identify this type of crime, and how to report it to authorities. HSI is using its Strategic Targeted Outreach Program (S.T.O.P.) to equip the public with the tools to do just that, and to help HSI and its law enforcement partners combat COVID-19 Fraud. The S.T.O.P. COVID-19 FRAUD campaign provides red flag indicators and asks people to report COVID-19 Fraud to COVID19FRAUD@DHS.GOV.
Campaign flyers are available for download on this page, and key points can be found below:
Red Flag Indicators for Financial Fraud Scams
- Beware of any e-mails, text messages or calls offering goods, services, loans, or debt relief.
- Research before you donate to any charities – most charities have official websites.
- Beware of cryptocurrency, prepaid debit cards, gift cards, Money Service Businesses (MSB) transfers, or wire requests as payment methods.
- Government agencies do not call, text or e-mail: check your mail, do not follow links on social media, and utilize government websites directly.
- Government agencies will not call or e-mail about Economic Impact Payments and will not refer to it as “Stimulus” – do not open such e-mails or click on attachments. Government agencies will not contact anyone to verify or expedite payments.
Red Flag Indicators for Prohibited Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices
- Beware of Websites or individuals selling products alleging they can prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19.
- Currently, no COVID-19 Test Kits are authorized for private sale to individuals. Authorized COVID-19 test kits are only being distributed to medical professionals.
- Beware of pharmaceutical product information written in a foreign language or with misspellings.
- Don’t buy prescription pharmaceuticals from third party marketplaces or social media platforms.
Guidelines for Secure Online Shopping
- Do not click on unsolicited emails or text.
- Ensure a secure browser connection: HTTPS only.
- Verify website trust seals before placing an order.
- Recognize that official U.S. government websites end in .GOV.
- Inspect the URL of the website.