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Coronavirus

Beware: Scammers selling fake COVID-19 tests to steal info

It’s no exaggeration to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is a golden age for scammers. With so many people concerned about health, money and politics at once, con artists have found ample opportunity to cash in on the panic.

Thankfully, our security and intelligence agencies are keeping a watchful eye on financial predators. The FBI has already issued several bulletins regarding the scams facing Americans today, and what they can do to protect themselves from deception. Tap or click here to see the FBI’s warning on the recent spike in banking scams.

We already know that scammers have been peddling fake COVID-19 tests for some time now, but a new development in this scam is giving security officials pause. The FBI is now warning Americans of a new identity theft tactic that uses COVID-19 antibody tests as an excuse to collect and exploit personal information. Here’s how they’re getting away with it.

COVID-19 scams are ‘testing’ our patience

A new bulletin posted by the FBI is outlining an advanced fraud tactic that has seemingly evolved from the plethora of fake COVID-19 tests around the country. According to the Bureau, identity thieves are issuing bogus antibody tests and supplies to trick people into ponying up personal information like insurance data and social security numbers.

This escalation in tactics is extremely dangerous for two reasons: On one hand, any spike in identity theft and data collection poses significant risks to financial stability (especially during an economic downturn). On the other hand, these fake tests also pose a health risk — as the results are almost always fraudulent, and may lead to a false sense of security in victims.

If you believe you’re immune to COVID-19, for example, you may engage in riskier behavior such as ignoring social distancing, visiting crowded spaces, or sharing food and drinks with others. Tap or click here to see the surefire ways to prevent yourself from acquiring the virus.

But beyond the health risks, fraud is what the FBI is most concerned about. It’s urging victims who believe they’ve been defrauded by phony tests to contact the Bureau with tips at tips.fbi.gov, as well as affiliate agencies like the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721.

With enough help, investigators can hopefully bring these fraudsters to justice. In the meantime, there are a few steps you can take on your own to prevent getting duped.

How can I avoid COVID-19 testing scams?

As of now, the FBI is urging Americans to pay close attention to who might be issuing these tests as part of their larger efforts. When choosing a testing location, the FBI says to avoid entities that advertise testing via social media platforms or email, as well as tests advertised by telemarketers. A substantial portion of these entities appears to be fraudulent.

In addition, it’s worth noting that many phony test providers try to make their testing practices seem as urgent as possible. If you get a call claiming to be from the government, for example, that says you must comply with a mandatory test, you can promptly ignore it. The government will never call you and frighten you into taking an antibody test.

RELATED: Amazon warehouse sees jump in COVID-19 infections – here’s how to stay protected

Other red flags to watch out for include incentives and promises of financial reimbursement in exchange for testing, tests that only accept cash payments and tests that do not operate out of certified laboratories.

If you do want to take an antibody test for your own peace of mind, here’s what the FBI recommends:

  • Check the FDA’s website (fda.gov) for an updated list of approved antibody tests and testing companies.
  • Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any at-home antibody tests.
  • Using a well-known laboratory approved by your health insurance company to provide testing
  • Avoid sharing your personal or health information to anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals
  • Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly reporting any errors to your health insurance provider.
  • Following guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other trusted medical professionals.

If you’re cautious and skeptical about the advertisements you see and receive in your daily life, you’ll probably be safe from these scams.

The people behind them aren’t aiming to scoop up everyone in their schemes. But even if only a handful of people fall for the tricks, that’s a few successful marks they’ve managed to exploit. Let’s not give them any more opportunities.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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