Federal prosecutors file restraining order against Austin website selling coronavirus 'vaccine’ kits

Enforcement action is first to combat fraud related to pandemic

FILE - In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in New York's Long Island. Wide scale testing is a critical part of tracking and containing infectious diseases. But the U.S. effort has been plagued by a series of missteps, including accuracy problems with the test kits the CDC sent to other labs and bureaucratic hurdles that slowed the entrance of large, private sector labs. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
FILE - In this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 file photo, a technician prepares COVID-19 coronavirus patient samples for testing at a laboratory in New York's Long Island. Wide scale testing is a critical part of tracking and containing infectious diseases. But the U.S. effort has been plagued by a series of missteps, including accuracy problems with the test kits the CDC sent to other labs and bureaucratic hurdles that slowed the entrance of large, private sector labs. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

An Austin-based website that claimed to sell coronavirus vaccine kits is facing legal trouble after prosecutors filed a restraining order against the company in federal court.

The restraining order, filed Saturday, was granted by U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman. The enforcement action is the first to target fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to avoid new coronavirus scams

The man behind the website is not named in court documents, but prosecutors allege the man started coronavirusmedicalkit.com, allowed customers to order a free World Health Organization “vaccine kit” for $4.95 shipping.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

Prosecutors believe the purpose of the website is to lure victims into giving up their credit card information, which would lead to identity theft and fraudulent purchases.

The website also uses a photo of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health.

“The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft, or delivering malware.”

Anyone with knowledge of a fraud scheme related to the pandemic is urged to report it by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE FROM KSAT:


About the Author: