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State and federal authorities are urging the public to be vigilant and report any suspected scammers looking to take advantage of fear and uncertainty amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don't let them," the FBI said in a news release.

Some examples of these scams include:

* Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19.

* Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to report

To report suspected fraud, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov.

The center receives and enters complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by federal prosecutors and investigators, as well as state attorneys general and local authorities.

* Malicious websites and apps that appear to share coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.

* Requests for donations to illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

* Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.

Here in Tennessee, a Nashville doctor is being investigated by Nashville police and the Tennessee Attorney General's Office after he was seen driving a yellow truck advertising COVID-19 testing, the Tennessean reported earlier this month. The doctor lost his license over a decade ago.

In addition to the warning, the U.S. Department of Justice has prioritized the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus fraud schemes.

"Federal law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney's Office will quickly react to the expected scourge of abuse, exploitation and financial fraud related to Coronavirus crimes," J. Douglas Overbey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said in a statement. "We will vigorously prosecute anyone who targets our citizens, whether it be door-to-door, over the phone or online, all of which is simply despicable conduct in this time of crisis."

Each federal district will have a "coronavirus fraud coordinator" who will direct the prosecution of coronavirus-related crimes and conduct outreach and awareness activities.

Here in the Eastern District of Tennessee, that coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney William Roach.

Contact Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @Hughes Rosana.

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