As we look around at all the news related to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are constant reminders that bad people will take advantage of chaotic times to wreak whatever havoc they can. This current crisis is no different. News reports from around the country seek to warn the public about scams and fraud related to COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies are issuing warnings about terrorists, both domestic and foreign, seeking to harm healthcare facilities to weaken the response to COVID-19. And of course, there are those individuals who take advantage of any opportunity to watch it all burn. Let’s look at a few stories.
Scams and Fraud: Forbes Published an article on April 1st titled Don’t Get Fooled By COVID-19 Scams. Forbes, like other news agencies, is responding to continuous alerts and warnings issued by state and federal agencies alerting the public to a host of scams that are being perpetrated by criminals on a worried and fearful public. Naomi Cahn cautions people in her article about taking steps to protect themselves before they purchase “face masks, disinfecting wipes, colloidal silver, or other promised COVID-19 treatments (2020).” The Department of Justice (DOJ) has dedicated a webpage to Coronavirus scams. I encourage Security leaders to check it out and stay informed as healthcare facilities are not insulated from this issue. Other reports point to price gouging and the counterfeiting of needed supplies for desperate hospitals to purchase. One report encourages healthcare facilities to: “Be alert to counterfeit products like sanitizing products and personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full-face shields, protective gowns, and gloves (Waitt, 2020).”
Terrorism: DHS has published an alert about foreign and domestic terrorism designed to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and overly stressed healthcare resources. According to a report by the Associated Press, one domestic terrorist was already killed during his attempted arrest by the FBI for plotting the bombing of a Kansas hospital (2020). According to ABC news, the alert warns about the exploitation of public fear, active spread of misinformation, and efforts that will intensify in the months ahead (Mallin, 2020). Among other sources, the DHS memo cites the weekly ISIS newsletter, al-Naba, which directly calls for attacks on healthcare facilities (2020). It is easy to roll your eyes and ignore information like this. Our job is to remain calm, systematic and professional in our efforts. Now more than ever, there is temptation is to be distracted. As security professionals, accurate threat assessment is even more critical in a chaotic environment.
Florida Man: According to the Urban Dictionary, the term Florida Man is used primarily to “describe all the weird news stories about random Floridians committing weird and dumb crimes (2020).” While Florida certainly gets the bad rap on this one, we should all freely admit that each state has its own version of “Florida Man”. There are many sick, disturbed, and unfortunate souls out there who are hurting and looking for attention. For example, one man (out of Florida) was arrested for walking around spraying an unknown substance from a bottle marked COVID-19 (Fox 35, 2020). While this was a mild disruption of the peace, there was another man (out of California) who intentionally derailed a train attempting to ram the U.S. Navy hospital ship docked in Los Angeles (ABC7, 2020). While some are good for a laugh, there are those scenarios which could escalate to deadly scenes of violence.
As leaders in healthcare security, we never lack material for threat assessment. Whether it is fraud, terrorism, or the random weird crimes we see, each threat presents an opportunity to keep those in our charge safe. Don’t let COVID -19 keep you from staying informed and vigilant and that’s the bottom line.
How do you keep up with everything that is going on? How do you process and manage intelligence on threats to your organization? What tools do you use to help you keep informed and stay vigilant? Join the conversation in the comments below, and don’t forget to like, follow and share to support the Proactive Security Blog.
Cahn, N. (2020). Don’t Get Fooled By COVID-19 Scams. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/naomicahn/2020/04/01/dont-get-fooled-by-covid-19-scams/#c0917017fbe1
Department of Homeland Security. (2020). Terrorists Exploiting COVID-19 Pandemic in an Attempt to Incite Violence. Counter Terrorism Mission.
Fox 35. (2020). Deputies: Florida man sprayed bottle of ‘COVID-19’ on doors of business. Retrieved from https://www.fox35orlando.com/news/deputies-florida-man-sprayed-bottle-of-covid-19-on-doors-of-business
Wallin, A. (2020). Homeland Security warns terrorists may exploit COVID-19 pandemic. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/homeland-security-warns-terrorists-exploit-covid-19-pandemic/story?id=69770582
Waitt, T. (2020). FBI Warns Health Care of Fraud COVID-19 Medical Equipment. Retrieved from https://americansecuritytoday.com/fbi-warns-health-care-of-fraud-covid-19-medical-equipment/
Urban Dictionary. (2020). Florida Man. Retrieved from https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Florida%20Man