How to avoid buying fake COVID tests online as kits run out


With a shortage of much sought after COVID-19 test kits, federal authorities are warning Americans against purchasing fake test kits online.

Rapid at-home test kits, which are sold without a prescription and give results within minutes, have been hard to find in stores since before the holidays.

In parts of California, residents struggling to secure appointments and hoping to avoid long lines at overcrowded testing sites have headed to pharmacies for home kits, only to find empty shelves. .

Some desperate shoppers turn online to find test kits, which are sometimes resold at a markup.

More worryingly, some are selling fake home test kits that are not unauthorized in the United States, authorities say.

“It’s no surprise that, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration, counterfeit and unauthorized home test kits are appearing online as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the surge in demand,” said the Federal Trade Commission on alert last week.

The FDA said it found fraudulent unauthorized test kits sold online, warning those who use them could unknowingly spread the coronavirus or risk not receiving the proper treatment.

“Using these counterfeit products is not only a waste of money, it increases your risk of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 or not receiving the proper treatment,” the FTC also warned.

How to Avoid Buying Fake Tests

Here’s what to look out for if you buy a COVID-19 test kit online, according to the FTC:

  • Check the FDA listings for antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests, and make sure the test you are purchasing has been cleared by the FDA. If you cannot find the name of the test, it means that its use has not been authorized in the United States.
  • Research the seller before you buy, especially if it’s a site you’re unfamiliar with. Search online for the name of the website, company, or seller, along with words like “scam,” “claim,” or “review,” and see if anything of concern pops up.
  • Compare online reviews of various websites.
  • Pay by credit card. (If you are charged for an order that you never received, or for a product that is not as advertised, you can contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.)

Home COVID-19 tests available in U.S. stores include LabCorp’s Abbott BinaxNOW, Quidel Quickvue, Acon FlowFlex, Ellume, and Pixel.

In response to increased demand driven by the omicron push, retailers like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have limited the number of in-home COVID-19 tests that customers can purchase.

Some of the tests have also become more expensive recently after a White House deal expired to sell the kits at cost for three months.

In response to growing frustration with limited testing, the Biden administration announced on Monday that health insurers would be required to cover COVID-19 testing at home.

Those who suspect that they have found a fraudulent seller or have found false tests available online can report it to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

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