Because of long lines at testing sites and a lack of at-home tests at pharmacies, some Texans have turned to unverified websites advertising antibody tests. People might give out personal information or pay some amount of money. When they don't get their test results, they realize they've been scammed.
"The primary driver for this is there seems to be a scarcity in COVID-19 tests," said BBB North Central Texas spokesperson Monica Horton. "Anytime there's a scarcity, and we saw this at the beginning of the pandemic, when things were in scarce supply, there's always the potential there for people to get scammed."
The FBI has warned of scammers selling unapproved antibody tests giving inaccurate results. These scammers collect credit card information, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and heath insurance or Medicare information. In Florida, for example, scammers appeared at a testing site and conducted fake tests to people standing in line to get their personal information.
Thirty-five COVID-19-related scams have been reported in the Fort Worth area, according to the Better Business Bureau. One consumer reported losing $915 on a COVID-related purchase.
How do COVID-19 testing scams work?
Tests like these are not U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved and will not give you accurate results:
1. You'll get a robocall directing you to a website that looks like a clinic or medical supply company offering COVID-19 tests.
2. They'll offer a 10-minute test that can identify if a person has been infected with COVID. Some are at-home tests, and others allege to be clinics. They'll share few if any details about the person or website selling the test. They don't provide information on how the test works, where it is sourced or what lab processes it.
3. To receive a test, the website will ask for a credit card or give a form for you to fill out with your personal information.
You may never even receive an actual test kit. Scammers will have stolen your money and personal information.
"They're basically trying to get your money a lot of times or steal your information to be used for identity theft purposes," Horton said.
For more information on how to spot a testing scam, visit bbb.org/all/spot-a-scam.
How to avoid COVID-19 testing scams?
— Talk to your doctor — If you want a test, your physician can help you figure out if it will be covered by insurance and where to find a legitimate clinic. Or, check out the Texas Department of Health and Human Services website for information on testing availability.
— Do your research — A scammer might put pressure on you to quickly buy or commit to a test without giving you time for research. Before agreeing to a test, investigate the seller first. Research any claims the company makes. Search bbb.org to verify that they are BBB-accredited and have positive reviews. To check if a company has complaints or scam reports, visit the BBB Scam Tracker, FBI, Federal Trade Commission and Attorney General's office.
— Understand your testing options — Understanding the different tests available will help you make a more informed decision. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a COVID testing guide.
— Don't share your personal information with strangers — Only share your personal information with verified sellers. Be wary of scammers approaching you while you're in line for a COVID test; ask for credentials before proceeding.
— Check FDA approval — Some COVID-19 tests have not been FDA-approved, meaning their accuracy has not been determined. Check the FDA website for a list of approved tests and testing companies.
"We just want consumers at this point to be aware, and be cautious that the scams are out there," Horton said.
How can you report a COVID-19 scam?
If you suspect your personal information has been stolen, report it to identitytheft.gov.
If you've been the victim of a scam, report it on BBB.org/ScamTracker. That will help others avoid similar scams.
If you paid for the test using a credit card, you can dispute the fraudulent charges with your credit card company.
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