The highly-infectious omicron variant is still rapidly spreading across the country. As a result, millions of people want to know if they are infected and need at-home tests. What are your chances of getting COVID? Tap or click here for a CDC map that charts breakthrough cases.
Those tests were challenging to find earlier this month, which skyrocketed prices as demand increased. So to help ease the burden on the healthcare sector, the government announced that families can now order free at-home COVID-19 tests.
It’s a good idea but read on to see how criminals are exploiting the government’s goodwill to line their own pockets.
Here’s the backstory
Last year, the Biden administration announced that it planned to make at-home COVID-19 tests available for free to those who need them. A dedicated government website will handle the logistics like sign-ups and distribution.
A total of 500 million COVID-19 at-home testing kits are available. However, as the website went live earlier than expected, people rushed to get their allotted four tests.
You don’t have to enter payment information, and the tests are shipped to you for free. To order yours while some are still available, go to covidtests.gov and complete the form.
But as always, scammers are not too far behind when there is something in high demand. For example, it took less than 24 hours for several fake websites to pop up, claiming to be the destination for ordering the free at-home tests.
Many dodgy websites have a strikingly similar URL to the official address, making it easy to fool victims. One such site was crafty enough to use the official URL but added a .com to the end. At first glance, you assume that you are going to the correct address but instead end up on a site that peddles expensive rapid testing kits.
Unfortunately, that’s just one example. There are several others. That’s why it’s critical to be cautious when trying to order your free at-home tests. Keep reading for tips to avoid the fakes.
What you can do about it
There are a few things that you can do to make sure that you don’t end up on a fake or misleading COVID-19 test website.
- To get free at-home COVID tests from the government – Go to https://www.covidtests.gov, click the Order Free At-Home Tests banner and it will redirect you to https://usps.com/covidtests. It is the only website that can provide you with the free government tests.
- Purchase only FDA-authorized tests – Check out the FDA’s lists of antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests to see what’s legitimate.
- Avoid the fakes – The FDA has a list of fraudulent COVID-19 products with more than 200 on the list so far.
- Do your research – Look into the seller, website and company before making a purchase. Search for the name and combine it with words like scam, complaint and review to see what pops up.
- Look for reviews – Check out reviews from a variety of sources and compare them with each other. You may see a pattern emerge.
- Avoid using your debit card – Pay by credit card so you can dispute a charge if needed. The FTC has tips on how to do this as well.