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Scammers have taken advantage of the coronavirus pandemic from the start, but the recent surge of the highly infectious omicron variant is providing them with more opportunities to fleece the public.
Omicron's rapid spread means that those who suspect they've been infected or exposed may not be able to be tested right away due to high demand. So they often scour the internet in hopes of finding a provider that can do it quickly.
Enter the latest wave of COVID-19 scammers.
On Jan. 19, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning about testing scams that don't involve physical testing sites. The BBB said that some scammers ask people to provide personal and insurance information or payment on websites designed to look legitimate. After victims do that and receive a test date at a pharmacy, they discover that there is no record of a reservation.
Another popular scam during the omicron surge is phishing emails related to COVID-19 testing. Between October and January, these ventures increased by 521%, according to the computer security firm Barracuda. Many of these phishing scams involved offers of fake at-home testing kits, Barracuda noted.
Home testing scams have also drawn the attention of officials around the country, who are warning consumers to be wary. In Michigan, Attorney General Dana Nessel recently encouraged residents to be certain that the test they're purchasing is certified by the Food and Drug Administration and to diligently check out the seller before they buy.
Meanwhile, officials are also directing critical attention to some companies for activities that aren't scams but may be deceptive. On Jan. 19, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had ordered 20 companies "to immediately stop making baseless claims that their products and supposed therapies can treat or prevent COVID-19."
Those who are searching for COVID-19 tests or at-home testing kits should use caution. Some companies that are offering tests may not be qualified or equipped to do it, and some who say they can conduct tests or provide kits are full-blown cybercriminals.
If you think you need a COVID-19 test because of a possible infection or exposure, here are a few specific pieces of advice from public officials and the BBB:
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
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