If there’s a public crisis afoot, you can bet there are people concocting underhanded ways to profit off it.
While legit private medical companies and health startups scramble to develop reliable at-home COVID-19 tests, scam artists are already registering domains and quietly attempting to sell coronavirus test kits.
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer put out a warning on Twitter on Thursday night, warning Angelenos not to fall for it. “There are NO in-home tests for COVID-19,” he said. “If someone tries to sell you one, tells you they have ’emergency approval,’ or shows up at your door to test you, it’s a scam!”
There are NO in-home tests for COVID-19.
— The Office of Mike Feuer, L.A. City Attorney (@CityAttorneyLA) March 20, 2020
In an email to NBC News, an FDA spokesperson echoed Feuer: “No at-home test has been granted an emergency use authorization…And at-home test kits are explicitly exempt as part of our recent coronavirus diagnostics policy. We are looking into this further.”
Testing scams have been afoot for as long as the novel coronavirus has been dominating headlines. On March 12, U.S. Customs and Border Control officers at LAX seized six plastic bags containing phony coronavirus tests. “A complete examination of the shipment led to the finding of vials filled with a white liquid and labeled ‘Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)’ and ‘Virus1 Test Kit’,” a CBC spokesperson said. Fake tests proliferated in China following the outbreak.
Fake tests aren’t the only issue. Feuer’s office has created a section on its website where consumers can report price-gouging, false-advertising, and scams. Cases are being handled by the Joint Coronavirus Task Force, a collaboration between Feuer’s office, Jackie Lacey’s office, as well as the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs and L.A. County Counsel.