Homeland Security issues warning after seizing $4M in counterfeit medical supplies

"Protecting our doctors, nurses, hospital workers, first responders is absolutely our number one priority," said Jared Murphey.

Murphey is the assistant special agent in charge with Homeland Security investigations in Detroit. He says fraud related to COVID-19 is rampant and could be very dangerous.

"It's one thing if you and I wear a mask that's maybe sub-standard but it's absolutely crucial that we keep our medical professionals safe and keep the counterfeit out of the stream of medical commerce," he said.

Counterfeit or substandard respirators, masks, gowns and gloves are just part of what they've seized coming in from other countries.

"Counterfeit medications, counterfeit test kits, unapproved items, keeping that stuff out of the stream of commerce - we've seized close to $4 million in criminal proceeds," he said.

Murphy says that's nationwide - hundreds of investigations are underway, and he's reminding people - beware of anything claiming to prevent or cure or test for COVID-19.

"The government, specifically the FDA, hasn't even approved the use of those devices," he said. "It's all perpetrators exploiting our fear and our anxiety and taking advantage of us during this difficult time."

That includes trying to scam people out of stimulus money - with nearly $3 trillion coming from the government - there's no shortage of schemes and often times - the bad guys are targeting senior citizens.

"They target elderly folks with fraudulent emails and text messages and telephone calls in order to prey upon their vulnerability at this time - their fear," he said.

Murphey asks that you talk to your older friends and relatives and neighbors. And beware of anyone offering to help you get your stimulus check - they can't. that money is coming directly to you from the government.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there," he said. there's a lot of misunderstanding and bad organizations are taking advantage of that to make a buck."

To report suspicious activity -  email the Homeland Security Hotline for Coronavirus Fraud at covid19fraud@dhs.gov