West Virginia senator introduces bill to bring harsher punishments to COVID-19 scammers

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — We’ve heard of scams and fraudulent activity during the pandemic, and some lawmakers are sick of it.

“These are frauds. They’re scams,” West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said.

Lawmakers want to stop scam artists who are trying to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis.

“People … have received anonymous phone calls asking for their social security number or asking to offer to help with getting their stimulus check,” Capito said.

Capito says because of these and other scams, which are frequently aimed at the elderly, she introduced the “CEASE” Act.

“You have to go after the bad actors and have them cease their activities because they’re just going to move on to the next person,” Capito said.

The bill increases the penalty for false advertising from a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail for a first offense, to $50,000 and/or one year in jail.

“Also, if you’re a repeated offender, you are really punished to the greatest degree,” Capito said.

Capito says this bill will put teeth in the Federal Trade Commission’s effort to crack down on false advertising, while the Justice Department prosecutes the crooks.

“We are already bringing cases to hold fraudsters accountable to disrupt their schemes,” Associate Deputy Attorney General William Hughes said.

Hughes says this is a top priority for the justice department.

“It is critical the department is vigilant in detecting, investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing relating to the crisis,” Hughes said.

Hughes and other officials say fraud and scam-related legislation will help them do their job and protect the American people.

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