Better Business Bureau: COVID has been a scammers' paradise. Here's how to stay safe

·4 min read
Hudayfa Aldmour, a COVID-19 test administrator from O'Hare Clinical Lab Services, packs up a COVID-19 test on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 at Islamic Circle of North America Rockford, 1110 Arthur Ave., in Rockford.
Hudayfa Aldmour, a COVID-19 test administrator from O'Hare Clinical Lab Services, packs up a COVID-19 test on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 at Islamic Circle of North America Rockford, 1110 Arthur Ave., in Rockford.

The government has rolled out their website to order free test kits that will start to be delivered in late January. Better Business Bureau is alerting the public that scammers are expected to create all kinds of cons to trick the public.

There are some concerns with the roll-out. The ordering process is simple but, since the start of the pandemic, there has been a long list of scams revolving around COVID from PPE and testing to vaccinations. That situation has not changed.

Delivery of free COVID test kits has given scammers a new opportunity to con individuals into giving them private health, financial and insurance information. Do not fall for it.

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The official government website covidtests.gov launched a day earlier than originally announced; and within a few hours scammers launched a fake website covidtests.org.

It’s always a safe bet. If there is a way for scammers to turn good to evil, they will find it.

Here are some suggestions to help avoid getting ripped off:

  • Only go to the Federal government’s official website covidtests.gov to request the tests. This will take you to the United States Postal Service request page, where you provide your name and address. Be sure to include your apartment, condo, or floor number because only four tests are allocated for each address.

  • A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

  • These tests are free, including shipping. Do not give your credit card out to anyone who claims they can get you the tests or expedite the delivery date.

  • The only information the government wants is your name and address. If you wish to provide an email address, you can get updates on your test order.

  • Please don't respond to any text, pop-up ads, emails, or phone calls pretending that they are affiliated with this government program.

  • Don’t trust the caller ID it can be easily manipulated by the scammer.

  • Secure .gov websites use HTTPS A lock symbol or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites. Watch out for fake websites claiming to be the official government website.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General has also issued some guidance regarding COVID scams in general:

  • Make sure to purchase FDA approved COVID-19 test kits from legitimate providers.

  • Do not buy fake vaccine cards, do not make your own vaccine cards, and do not fill-in blank vaccination record cards with false information.

  • Do not provide personal, medical, or financial details to anyone in exchange for vaccine information and obtain vaccinations from trusted providers.

  • Offers to purchase COVID-19 vaccination cards are scams. Valid proof of COVID-19 vaccination can only be provided to individuals by legitimate providers administering vaccines.

  • Do not give your personal, medical, or financial information to anyone claiming to offer money or gifts in exchange for your participation in a COVID-19 vaccine survey.

  • Be mindful of how you dispose of COVID-19 materials such as syringes, vials, vial container boxes, vaccination record cards, and shipment 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, health care details or other personally identifiable information can be used to steal your identity.

  • Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.

  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up.

  • Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.

  • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.

  • Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test.

  • If you suspect COVID-19 health care fraud, report it immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).

Dennis Horton is the director of the Rockford Regional Office for the Better Business Bureau.
Dennis Horton is the director of the Rockford Regional Office for the Better Business Bureau.

Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: BBB: COVID has been a scammers' paradise. Here's how to stay safe

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