The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) today warned about scammers taking advantage of the free COVID-19 test government program to steal personal information for unscrupulous purposes. Due to the high demand, scammers may start using techniques that typically arise with a free government event such as: falsely claiming to be online providers of the tests; sending fake emails and texts that contain harmful links designed to steal your personal information; and using robocalls to pitch testing information.
“The arrival of the COVID-19 free at home tests is one more tool in the fight to end this brutal pandemic, but unfortunately, it also creates new opportunities for unscrupulous scammers to attempt to lure people into unintentionally providing their personal information,” said Acting Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “As the free at-home test program is rolled out, New Yorkers can thwart the scammers by keeping their personal, financial and health information safe and questioning any requests for a social security number, credit card, health insurance or other personally identifiable information from anyone not affiliated with a trusted health or government entity.”
“The availability of free COVID-19 test kits from the federal government will help millions of Americans to have multiple tests on-hand as we continue to monitor and navigate the winter surge,” said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I urge New Yorkers to be vigilant in safeguarding their identity while they are protecting their health and always verify that a source is legitimate before providing personal information.”
Consumers should also be aware that the ONLY website for the free at-home test kits is https://www.covidtests.gov/ .This link will direct you to a United States Postal Service page to complete the free at home test kit request form. The form only asks for your name and address. It does not require you enter a social security number, credit card number, health insurance number or any other personally identifiable information. The service is free.
Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests. To help ensure that residents have tests on hand if a need arises, the federal government is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans at no cost. A half-billion tests are available for order and are being mailed directly to households around the country. People are able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering. This distribution method can spur a wave of scams if people are not aware of the right website or where to go to get the test.
To avoid being victims of at home COVID- 19 testing scams, the Division of Consumer Protection offers the following tips:
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
- Be aware of emails coming from unknown senders. Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts claiming to have information about free at-home covid testing kits. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in New York State, visit the New York State Department of Health website.
- Ignore online offers for at-home COVID-19 tests or emails claiming you can get your free at home testing kit sooner. If you see ads touting getting your at home Covid-19 testing kit sooner, ask yourself: is an ad or sales pitch a trusted source of information?
- Be aware of emails asking for your personal information. Do your homework when it comes to sharing your personal information over email. Confirm by calling the sender.
- Hang up on illegal robocallers. The federal government will not call you to offer you a free testing kit. If you receive a call about free at-home COVID-19 testing, hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but instead it might lead to more robocalls.
- Official government websites use “.gov”. A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.
- 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.
If you choose to shop online for at home COVID testing kits, keep these tips in mind:
- Make sure the test you’re buying is authorized by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Check the FDA’s lists of antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests before you buy to find the tests authorized for home use. (EUA is “emergency use authorization.”)
- Check out a seller before you buy, especially if you’re buying from a site you don’t know. 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. You can get a good idea about a company, product, or service from reading user reviews on various retail or shopping comparison sites. Think about the source of the review. Ask yourself: Where is this review coming from? Is it from an expert organization or individual customers?
- Pay by credit card. If you’re charged for an order you never got, or for a product that’s not as advertised, contact your credit card company and dispute the charge.
For up-to-date information on COVID-19 testing and vaccination information, visit the New York State Department of Health website or call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm or visit the DCP website at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.