LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With demand for COVID-19 testing at an all-time high, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger is calling for a plan to guard against testing fraud and any subsequent identity theft.
With Southern Californians returning to work and schools after several weeks of holiday travel and gatherings, just as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant was spreading across the globe, new COVID cases have skyrocketed, driving demand for tests. Stores have either sold out or are in short supply, and public health officials have scrambled to reopen large testing sites to meet demand.
But high demand for anything gives way to opportunities to scam unsuspecting and desperate consumers, so Barger wants a number of county departments to work together to mitigate testing fraud.
"As the urgent need for testing reaches a crucial point, it is imperative that we ensure residents can be confident they are receiving an accurate and legitimate test without risking their private information," Barger said in a statement. "We must do all we can to crack down on fraudulent COVID-19 tests and sites and prevent identity theft."
There have been reports of pop-up COVID-19 test sites that promise results within 48 hours and take personal information such as driver's license numbers. Barger's motion also cited an FTC warning released last week about such tests.
"It's not a surprise that, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits are popping up online as opportunistic scammers take advantage of the spike in demand," the FTC said.
The FTC's warning urged consumers to only purchase FDA-authorized tests, research sellers before paying, comparing online reviews, and to purchase by credit card for extra protection.
Barger's motion calls for the county's departments of Consumer and Business Affairs, Public Heath, and Health Services, the sheriff's department, and others to work together to develop a plan to mitigate COVID testing fraud and develop a public education plan to help county residents learn about the threats of fake COVID-19 testing and test kits.
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