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BBB warns of COVID test scams
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Security & privacy

Scam Alert: Robocalls trick victims with fake COVID-19 tests

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues its spread across the country, the number of infections is increasing. Naturally, that leads to more people wanting to be tested.

Testing is available at a number of health facilities and pharmacy chains, and you can even opt to buy testing kits that can be shipped to your home. Have you purchased an at-home test? Tap or click here for details on millions that have been recalled.

But when some are short on time or unsure where to go, they turn to a helpful phone call to get information. Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of the situation and tricking people into becoming victims.

Here’s the backstory

Depending on where you live, tests for COVID might be in short supply. With infection rates soaring, many are eager to know if they have a cold or need to isolate over a positive infection.

But where there is an opportunity, a scammer is never far behind. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning that thieves are out in full force, tricking people out of their money and personal information with the promise of a quick COVID test.

Potential victims will receive a robocall about a clinic offering COVID tests or an at-home test kit. The calls promise that the test will tell if you are infected with coronavirus and can be done as quickly as 10 minutes.

All you need to do is visit the website specified in the call. But there is a catch. And in this scam, you have to supply your credit card details or complete a form with personal information. Needless to say, once you have entered your credit card or personal information, there is no test.

To make matters worse, the BBB warns that if a test does arrive, it more than likely won’t be accurate. “These tests are not US Food and Drug Administration approved and will not give accurate results. In fact, requestors may never even receive an actual test kit. Either way, scammers will have made off with the money and personal information,” the BBB said.

What you can do about it

If you want to get tested for COVID, here are suggestions from the BBB to stay safe:

  • Want a test? Talk to your doctor. Reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help determine if the test is covered by insurance and find a legitimate clinic. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, check out the official website of your local health department for more information on testing availability.
  • Research before buying. Scammers put pressure on people to buy or commit without giving them time to research. Before agreeing to anything, investigate. Research claims a company makes. Start with BBB.org to see they are BBB Accredited, have good reviews and if there are complaints or scam reports associated with their business name. Also, review the warnings on FDAFTC and BBB ScamTracker.
  • Understand all options: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed guide to testing for COVID-19. Make sure you understand the different tests available.
  • Never share personal information with strangers. Only make purchases and share personal information with people and companies you know and trust.
  • Check claims of FDA approval. Per the FBI, “Not all COVID-19 antibody tests have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and their efficacy has not been determined.” Check the FDA website here for a list of approved tests and testing companies.

🚨 What it means for you

Scammers will do whatever it takes to convince you to hand over personal information, and often use fear surrounding real situations like the COVID-19 pandemic to achieve their goals..

✅ Another recent scam tactic involves text messages claiming to include new information about COVID-19 regulations and vaccine booster shots, with a link that downloads malware onto your device. Tap or click here to see an example of this phishing text.

✅ If you are looking to get tested for COVID-19 and don’t know where to begin, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a special section on its website to help you located community-based testing sites near you. Check it out here.

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