Don’t fall for the fake drive-through coronavirus testing sites that have been cropping up in recent weeks. Yes, that’s right—according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are dressing up like medical professionals and conducting fake, unsanitary tests for money and identity theft, while possibly spreading the virus.
Per the FTC:
The fake sites can look real, with legitimate-looking signs, tents, hazmat suits, and realistic-looking tests… In addition to running off with innocent people’s information, these destinations are causing health-related issues. They aren’t following sanitation protocols, so they can spread the virus. Worst of all, they’re not giving people the help they need to stay healthy.
Reports about such sites have emerged in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, and Washington state, per AARP. Typically they charge cash ($240 in one instance) for this bogus test, and they’ll try to steal your social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and credit card information for identity theft purposes, as well.
How to spot a fake testing site
Scammers might look legitimate at first glance, but take a second look: the clothing will be inconsistent, as the scammers might wear painter’s coveralls or lab coats instead of legitimate personal protective equipment. Look at the name tags, too—in once case, reported by the New York Times, the scammer wore a lanyard with phony ID for “HIPPA,” a misspelled acronym for the federal law that restricts how health data can be shared.
Worse yet, these are unscrupulous fraudsters, so health protocols like changing gloves between tests are likely not being followed. Since these are fly-by-night operations, they tend to be small—maybe a few trucks and tents that can be packed up and moved quickly before police catch on to the scam.
If you’re worried about whether a nearby testing site is legitimate, check your state or local health department’s website first. If you think a site is fake, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.