TYLER, Texas (KETK) – COVID-19 test sites should be legitimate, however, health officials have noticed questionable sites popping up across Texas, including one in east Texas.

Because COVID-19 tests are rare, the Federal Trade Commission said there is no shortage of crooks setting up fake COVID-19 testing sites to cash in on the crisis.

The FTC added that fake sites can look real with legitimate-looking signs, tents, hazmat suits, and realistic-looking tests.

Although the sites are bogus, the damage they can cause is very real.

“They don’t follow sanitation protocols, so they can spread the virus,” said Ari Lazarus, consumer education specialist at the FTC. “They take people’s personal information, including social security numbers, credit card information, and other health information – all of which can be used for identity theft and to increase your credit card bill. credit.”

Dr Joseph Varon of the United Memorial Center told our KPRC, subsidiary of NBC that people need to be careful about where they line up to take a test.

“The question is, how do you know? What are the big red flags? Well, first of all, if you have a site that is not affiliated, like a local health care provider, institute, hospital, ”Varon said.

Varon added that he had noticed many questionable websites popping up in the Houston area since April and said some were targeting people on Medicare and even billing people for a free test.

“There is no regulation, and that is the problem,” Varon said. “The lack of regulation allows anyone to [open] their own little pop-up test site.

On Friday, December 31, officials from Lufkin Town and the Angelina County and Towns Health Department received a report of a unauthorized test site within city limits.

“It could easily be a scam to obtain your personal information for fraudulent purposes or to defraud money from you, your insurance provider, or the government.”

Gerald Williamson, ASSISTANT CITY DIRECTOR of Lufkin

the The Federal Trade Commission gave some advice to keep in mind when looking for test sites:

  • If you think you should get tested, ask your doctor.
    • The FTC has said that some people with COVID-19 have mild illness and will be able to recover at home without medical attention and may not need to be tested, according to the CDC. The CDC also has a self-auditor.
  • Get a referral.
    • Testing sites can appear in parking lots and places where people wouldn’t expect to get a lab test. The FTC has stated that some are legitimate and some are not. The FTC has said the best way to find out is to go somewhere you’ve been referred by a doctor or a state or local health department website. In other words, don’t trust a random testing site that you see on the side of the road.
  • Not sure if a site is legitimate?
    • Check with local police or the sheriff’s office. If a legitimate test site has been created, they should know about it. And if a bogus test site works, they’ll want to know about it.

Besides calling law enforcement about bogus testing sites, people can also report it to ftc.gov/plaint.

the FBI and Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services also gave advice on how to avoid COVID-19-related scams in addition to testing sites.

The FBI said the public should be aware of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:

  • Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine against payment of a deposit or a fee
  • Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine or put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
  • Offers to undergo additional medical tests or procedures while obtaining a vaccine
  • Traders offering to sell and / or ship doses of a vaccine, nationally or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fees
  • Unsolicited emails, phone calls or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company or COVID-19 vaccination center requesting personal and / or medical information to determine the eligibility of recipients to participate in vaccine clinical trials or obtain the vaccine
  • FDA Approval Requests For A Vaccine That Cannot Be Verified
  • Advertisements for vaccines via social media platforms, email, phone calls, online or from unsolicited / unknown sources
  • People who contact you in person, by phone, or by email to tell you that government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine

People should not share personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted healthcare professionals. The FBI added that people should check their medical bills and the explanation of insurance benefits for any suspicious claims and promptly report any errors to their health insurance provider.

The Office of the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services has also alerted the public to the fraud schemes.

Scammers have offered COVID-19 tests, HHS grans, and medical prescription cards in exchange for personal data.

The USDHHS Inspector General’s office has suggested ways to protect yourself with the following tips:

  • Don’t buy fake immunization cards, create your own immunization cards, or fill out blank immunization cards with false information.
  • Offers to buy COVID-19 vaccination cards are scams. Valid proof of COVID-19 vaccination can only be provided to individuals by legitimate providers administering vaccines.
  • As volunteers go door to door educating communities across the country about COVID-19 vaccines, be sure to protect yourself from criminals looking to commit fraud. Do not provide personal, medical, or financial details to anyone in exchange for vaccine information and get vaccinated from trusted suppliers.
  • Beware of scams related to COVID-19 investigations. Do not give your personal, medical, or financial information to anyone who claims to offer money or gifts in exchange for your participation in a COVID-19 vaccine investigation.
  • Pay attention to how you dispose of COVID-19 material, such as syringes, vials, vial boxes, immunization records, and shipping or tracking records. Improper disposal of these items could be used by bad actors to commit fraud.
  • Photos of COVID-19 vaccination cards should not be shared on social media. Posting content that includes your date of birth, healthcare details, or other personally identifiable information may be used to steal your identity.

If you believe you have been the victim of COVID-19-related fraud, report it immediately to the FBI (ic3.gov, tips.fbi.gov or 1-800-CALL-FBI) or the HHS OIG (tips.hhs. gov or 1-800-HHS-TIPS).