Watch out for uptick in COVID-19 tests, PPE scams, FBI warns

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Thursday, November 26, 2020
COVID scams on the rise, FBI warns
As COVID-19 cases continue to increase, you could get an offer for a COVID-19 test or personal protective equipment, but be careful because many of these items up for sale could be scams.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As COVID -19 cases surge, there's an uptick in testing and personal protective equipment offers that could be a scam.

Many of these questionable offers for PPE or COVID-19 testing are hitting consumers by text or social media. Others could even be a knock at your door.

"There have been reports of both of people going door to door, offering these, these items or largely online," said Siobhan Johnson with the FBI.

Many of the offers are for COVID-19 tests, antibody tests or PPE which may never arrive after you pay.

It's a warning from the FBI Chicago Field Office, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and stay-at-home advisories are becoming part of life again.

"So, we need to worry about people who are reaching out to us on social media on all sorts of different online platforms, even coming door to door, calling you asking for your Medicare number saying they're going to get you a COVID test," Johnson said. "When people reach out to you, unsolicited, that's when you need to be skeptical."

You should never give out Medicare or social security numbers to people who are not medical professionals.

You also want to only shop for PPE on websites you know and trust.

The I-Team is also finding that these PPE and testing scams may also come in the form of text messages.

"Many of them are attempting to trick the consumer into clicking a link to buy a home test or engage in some other type of purchase that ultimately is fraudulent, and you never get the home test," said Brian Wilson, Chief Revenue Officer at SlickText.

Wilson's company works with legitimate businesses to connect them to consumers.

He said texts trying to sell tests or masks can also be phishing attempts.

"Texts that outline a family member might be in trouble at a hospital or a treatment facility, and they need them to send money right away," Wilson warned.

Wilson said his industry is seeing a dramatic increase in COVID-19 related text scams.

"A text that is really inciting the individual to act now, act immediately Time is running out." He said. "It is coming from an abnormally long number? So something greater than 10 digits, that would typically outline that it's coming from outside of the United States."

Some of these text scams or social media scams may even offer consumers a way to quickly get a vaccine, however, when vaccines are safely and legitimately available they will be through your doctor or a government agency. You will not get a text to buy one from someone you don't know.