BBB: Beware of phony forms when signing up for free COVID-19 test

·2 min read

Jan. 21—U.S. households can now request free at-home COVID-19 test kits through a new Biden administration program. But as is the case with other major government initiatives, such as the stimulus checks, scammers are sure to try to take advantage. This time, be on the lookout for lookalike websites when requesting your tests. These scam sites may ask for payment or personal information, such as your Social Security number.

How the scam may work

You hear about the free COVID-19 tests and do a search for it online. Or you see a post or ad on social media or receive an unsolicited email or text. These communications urge you to request your free tests immediately by clicking on a link.

You follow the link to a website that looks official at first glance. It may have the United States Postal Service (USPS) logo, just like the real website. It also has a form to request your tests. But when you start filling out the form, you notice something unusual. This fake version may ask you for personal information, such as your Social Security number or Medicare ID. It could also request your credit card details, under the guise of needing to pay for shipping (note: the real page does not ask for payment or your SSN). Before you know it, you have given up your information to a scammer.

Tips to identify a fake website

Look closely at the domain name. One way that fake websites trick people is by using a domain name that is extremely close to a real business's or organization's domain name. For example, the real COVID-19 test request website is special.usps.com/testkits. Scammers may swap two letters or make a slight misspelling. If you find a spelling error in the domain name, you're not on the official site, and it's best to close the tab.

Watch out for tricky subdomains. Sometimes attackers hope you will confuse a subdomain with the real domain name. For example, a scammer might use the subdomain name usps.faketestkit.com hoping you won't notice that "faketestkit.com" is not the correct domain name to get your free test kit, which is usps.com.

The real website asks only for your name and address. You do not need to pay for the tests using the government program — even for shipping. And you will not be asked for insurance details, your Social Security number or any other sensitive information.

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