Q: I see tests for COVID-19 advertised; how do I know these are legitimate?
A: Great question. Some new studies show that up to 50% of people with COVID-19 don't show any symptoms, so many people are wondering if they had the disease without knowing it. Fortunately, an antibody test, according to www.cdc.gov, can identify if your body has already fought off the virus. Unfortunately, according to BBB ScamTracker, www.bbb.org/scamtracker, scammers are cashing in on demand and creating phony tests.
How the scam works:
You receive a robocall or are directed to a website that looks like a clinic or medical supply company offering COVID-19 tests. These tests can allegedly identify if you've been infected with coronavirus – even if you've already recovered. Some even promise results in 10 minutes. To get a test, all you need to do is complete a form or, in other versions, enter your credit card details.
In some cases, the test involves an easy at-home testing kit. Other times, the tests are allegedly offered through a clinic. But in all versions, the person or website selling the test is short on details. They aren't willing or able to provide any information about how the test works, where it is sourced, and what laboratory processes it.
Don't fall for it! These tests are not U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved and will not give accurate results. In fact, you may never even receive an actual test kit. Either way, scammers will have made off with your money and your personal information.
How to avoid fake coronavirus tests
Talk to your doctor. If you want an antibody test, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can help you figure out if the test will be covered by insurance and where to find a legitimate clinic. If you don't have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information on testing availability. Be advised that Hamilton County Health Department is offering free test in various locations. Find them at www.health.hamiltontn.org.
Do research before buying. Scammers put pressure on people to buy or commit without giving them time to do further research. Before you agree to anything, do some investigating. Research any claims the company makes. Start with searching BBB.org to see they are BBB Accredited, have good reviews, and if there are complaints or scam reports associated with their business name.
Understand your options: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a detailed guide, www.cdc.gov, for testing for COVID-19. Understand the different tests available and what you need.
Never share your personal information with strangers. Only make purchases and share your personal information with people and companies you know and trust.
If you've been the victim of a coronavirus related scam, please report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others to stay alert and avoid similar scams.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga