The news is filled with stories of long lines at in-person COVID testing sites across the country. Reports of limited supplies of at-home tests kits have consumers headed online to see what they can buy. The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) wants consumers to be on-guard against scammers who are taking advantage of people’s need for testing. Here is what consumers should keep in mind as they look for testing options:
Look up an official testing site. Make sure the testing site you are visiting in an official testing site either run by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) or that the testing site is using a licensed laboratory to process your test results. You can look for official testing sites at https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-testing-locations. To search lab licensing, visit https://www.cdc.gov/clia/LabSearch.html.
Don’t give over more information than needed. Testing through sites on SCDHEC’s site are always free and they will not ask you for copies of your insurance information, driver’s license or financial accounts. You may have to provide insurance information if you are getting a test through your personal doctor or an urgent care facility, but stand-alone testing sites should NOT be asking for that information.
Buying At-home Tests Online
Buy only FDA authorized tests. Make sure the test you’re buying is authorized by the FDA for home use. Check the FDA’s lists of antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests before you buy. The FDA also has a list of fraudulent COVID-19 products that scammers are trying to sell.
Check out the seller and reviews. Search online for the website, company, or seller’s name plus words like “scam,” “complaint” or “review.” Compare online reviews from a wide variety of websites. Think about the source of the review. Where is this review coming from? Is it from an expert organization or individual customers? When was the complaint made? Check SCDCA’s complaint portal, the Better Business Bureau’s complaints and search for reviews of the company, too
Pay by credit card. Credit cards offers extra fraud protection, limiting what you owe if someone steals your information and allowing you to dispute certain charges, including if you don’t receive your order. Also, unlike a debit card, a credit card isn’t a direct line into your checking account. Some credit card companies even offer “virtual” credit card numbers, giving you a temporary card number for your purchase instead of entering in your permanent number.
Be on the lookout for other “red flags.” Be suspicious of website URLs registered within the last six months; you can search any sites domain registration through the Whois Public Internet Directory. If a website has pictures and information that are copy-and-pasted from other websites, or the sites are advertised on social media, this could be a sign it’s fake. Also, make sure the website is secure by looking for an “S” after the http in the URL and/or a lock symbol in left of the URL bar.
If you think you’ve been scammed, contact SCDCA by calling 1 (844) TELL-DCA (835-5322) or file a report online. For more tips on how to avoid scams, download our free guide to guarding against scams “Ditch the Pitch.”
The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs aims to protect consumers from inequities in the marketplace through advocacy, complaint mediation, enforcement and education. To file a complaint or get information on consumer issues, visit www.consumer.sc.gov or call toll-free in SC: 1 (800) 922-1594.