The availability of COVID tests has been hit or miss since the start of the pandemic. This valuable commodity has been in short supply recently, and scammers are taking advantage much like they did with masks, gloves, and other PPE in the spring of 2020.
Fake COVID tests and bogus testing sites have appeared alongside legitimate ones, making it even more difficult to get adequate and reliable testing. Faulty tests are more than just a waste of consumer money; they also contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
COVID+ individuals may get a negative test result, allowing them to go back to school or work and transmit the virus. Additionally, these people may not get the medical treatment they need, potentially leading to serious health complications and even death.
Here’s what to know about COVID test scams, how to identify them, where to report fake COVID test or testing sites, and when you should contact a consumer protection lawyer.
The FTC Warns of Fake COVID Tests
On January 4, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning to consumers regarding fake COVID tests and COVID test scams. This notice is intended to make consumers aware of counterfeit COVID tests and lookalike testing sites so they can exercise caution when selecting at-home COVID tests or in-person COVID testing.
How to Identify a Potentially Fake COVID Test or Testing Site
Fraudulent COVID tests and COVID testing sites often have indicators that they may not be legitimate. However, you may need to do a bit of research before making a purchase or visiting a testing site. It’s important to be aware of what potential scams may look like before you need a test, otherwise, you may feel pressured to get tested with whatever you can manage to find that’s available.
Potentially counterfeit tests may:
- Be sold online by shell companies. Look for tests sold on websites with an SSL certificate and/or by trusted sources. If the website doesn’t have a telephone number where you can reach a live person, it’s more likely that the COVID tests being sold are fraudulent.
- Not have approval by the FDA. Look for a statement on the website or the box of the at-home COVID test you’re interested in purchasing that the test was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also has a published list of approved molecular tests and antigen tests If your test isn’t on the list, it’s likely unapproved.
You can avoid purchasing fake at-home COVID tests by buying from a pharmacy or a reputable chain store. You should also consider making your purchase with a credit or debit card so the charge can be disputed if you do not receive your tests or if your tests turn out to be fake.
Sham COVID testing sites are often:
- Operated as a drive thru. Many legitimate testing sites are also drive thru, so you should look for identification on nearby signage or worker badges. Don’t give your information to employees who do not wear IDs with their name, photo, and the company operating the testing site on the badge.
- Indistinguishable from legitimate COVID testing sites. Many scam artists go the extra mile to wear PPE, put up realistic-looking signage, and have swab collection practices that are very similar to real testing sites. You may be completely unable to determine if a testing site is fake or not just by observation.
You can avoid sham COVID testing sites by being drive thru tested at a pharmacy or at your local urgent care clinic or doctor’s office. You can also contact your local police department to check if a testing site has been registered. If a testing site is fully set up and operational but isn’t registered with law enforcement, this is a good indicator that the site may be a scam.
Reporting COVID Test Scams
If you purchased a fake COVID test or were tested at a sham COVID testing site, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has a separate form for COVID-19 related fraud reports, available here. Be sure to include as much information as possible in your report.
You can also contact the FTC to report other coronavirus related scams, such as price gouging and false advertising. The FTC investigates reports of fraudulent COVID tests and testing sites and will issue a cease and desist and/or fines to scam operations.
Should You Contact a Consumer Protection Attorney?
If you purchased a fake COVID test, you may be entitled to compensation if you suffered damages directly as a result of using the test. For example, if you purchased a fake COVID test and got a false negative test result that caused you to delay necessary medical treatment, and you incurred damages as a result, you may be a candidate for a consumer protection lawsuit.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we understand how terrifying and frustrating it is to be in a global pandemic without access to reliable testing. We’re here to support victims of consumer scams by opportunists who wish to profit from the pandemic and their families. Contact us today for a consultation at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.