Officials across the U.S. are warning about a worrisome new fraud involving fake drive-through coronavirus testing sites in several states.
The FBI is investigating fake test sites in Louisville, Kentucky. And in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. Attorney Jay Town issued a warning about bogus, fly-by-night testing sites.
Other reports about such sites have emerged in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York and Washington state, government and nonprofit officials state.
In Kentucky, David James, president of the Metro Louisville Council, said he ran a group of alleged COVID-19 testing scammers out of town last week.
James, a retired police officer, had heard from constituents that groups of people dressed in an array of personal protective equipment were taking mouth swabs from people seeking COVID-19 tests.
“I thought that was kind of weird,” said James, 58, because he hadn’t heard of a local hospital offering drive-through tests in church parking lots and at homeless shelters. So he traveled to one site on March 30 accompanied by a local consumer advocate.
James said there was a line of waiting cars. People seeking the tests were told to pay $240 in cash or give their Medicare or Medicaid cards and Social Security cards to verify their identity, and that if they were enrolled in the government health care plans, the plans would be billed.
“I explained to the crowd that they were being lied to,” he said. People who paid for tests told James that specimen collectors did not change their gloves between tests and could have been spreading the virus to others. “And that angered me.”
James went to another site at a gas station and saw a sign on the street with two red crosses mimicking the American Red Cross logo. There staffers wearing personal protective equipment wore neck lanyards that misspelled the health care law known as HIPAA, which is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“Those raised my suspicions,” he said, noting that the testing groups had offered pop-up, drive-through services at different sites over four days.