Officials nationwide are trying to stay ahead of a proliferation of COVID-19 test sites they say are offering fraudulent services. Attorneys general in states including New Mexico, Oregon, Florida, Minnesota, New York and Illinois have shut down pop-up test locations, or issued warnings, citing late or false test results and theft of customers' personal information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has warned that “scammers are preying on people looking for COVID tests," the Wall Street Journal reports. Authorities alleged that the operators of these sites are making money by sending bills to people whose insurance is supposed to cover tests or falsely claiming consumers are uninsured as a way to seek reimbursement from the federal government.
Pharmacies, health systems and government agencies have felt the strain of demand for tests amid of the Omicron surge. That has created an opening for independent providers, some of which are fly-by-night operations. Public-health authorities often tightly regulate labs that analyze COVID-19 tests, but don’t closely monitor sites that conduct the tests, creating regulatory gaps. James Jackson, a retired geologist in Portland, Or., said tests were in short supply near his home in November, so he went to a pop-up testing booth in the parking lot of a convenience store. After presenting his insurance information, Jackson, 73, took a test and was told to expect results by email in three days. When that didn’t happen, he returned and was assured results were coming soon. “I never did hear from them,” Jackson said, adding that the site is now closed.