As the demand for COVID-19 tests surges along with infections due to the Omicron variant, officials are warning of fraudulent tests online and at pop-up locations. Sellers of fake tests are also stealing patient data for purposes of identity theft, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
“The harder it is to find a testing site, the more individuals that are predators … are going out and doing illegal activity with kits that are not even accredited and stealing identities of patients,” Barger said.
Barger asked county staff to come up with an enforcement plan for cracking down on fraudsters as well as an educational campaign to alert the public to the risk and point them to legitimate resources.
“It is imperative that the board ensure residents can be confident that they are receiving an accurate and a legitimate test without risking their private information,” Barger said. “These (fraudulent sites) are popping up on street corners,” she warned.
The Federal Trade Commission sent out an alert last week warning about fake tests online. The FTC cited the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in warning Americans that “fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits are popping up online as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the spike in demand.”
The FTC offered the following tips:
- Check the FDA’s lists of antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests before buying.
- Conduct a web search for the seller’s name or website along with “scam,” “complaint” or “review”.
- Compare online reviews from a wide variety of websites.
- Pay by credit card so that you can later dispute the charge if necessary.
California is also moving against price gougers taking advantage of the surging demand for test kits. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order, announced last weekend, that prohibits sellers from increasing prices on at- home test kits by more than 10%.
A report in response to Barger’s motion is expected back in 30 days.