NEW YORK (CBS New York) – The Better Business Bureau is warning of a rise in COVID testing scams with New Yorkers claiming to have given personal information to get tested but never saw the results.
Stella Deng went for a COVID test at Elmhurst Hospital on December 31.
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“But they closed early, so I decided to do one of the vans that were parked across the street,” she told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
She stood in line at the van, which announced she was with Deshi Senior Center and promised results in two days.
They gave Deng a form to fill out, asking for his name, address, insurance information and ID card.
“They took a picture of our ID card,” Deng said. “So because it was close to the hospital, I thought it would have been, you know, a trustworthy place.”
But days passed and Deng never got his results.
“They never responded to my text message when I contacted them and they did not return their phone call, and we, to date, have not retrieved our results,” she said.
She is not alone. There are dozens of Google reviews of the Deshi Senior Center van detailing similar experiences.
One said, “Either they lost the tests, or they lost the results, or they scammed me for my information. Another person said he never got results, but was billed by his insurance the same day.
“It was a bit of a stretch when the lines were long and people were desperate for testing,” Bauman said.
“Yeah, exactly,” Deng said. “It just seems like a lot of people that week may have unknowingly given up a lot of their information and never got their results back.”
CBS2 has found no evidence that anyone’s personal information has been compromised, but the BBB is monitoring complaints against Deshi. The BBB says you should never have to hand over your personal information for a free COVID test.
“If there’s a pop-up site asking you for information it doesn’t need, chances are it’s trying to piece together an identity for identity theft,” Claire Rosenzweig said. , President and CEO of BBB Metro. NEW YORK.
The van hasn’t returned outside of Elmhurst Hospital in a while, so Bauman drove to the Deshi Senior Center in Ozone Park and spoke to Licensed Practical Nurse Paula Corletto.
“Is that one of your vans?” Bauman asked, showing Corletto a photo of the van Deng.
“Yes,” Corletto said.
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“Because we were talking to people who think it’s a scam because they haven’t heard back from their test results,” Bauman said.
“A few people did, a very small percentage of people didn’t get their test results because there was a large number of people coming in for the tests,” Corletto said.
Rosenzweig says you don’t need to provide a Social Security number, driver’s license or insurance card to get a free COVID test.
“If they ask you these things, I’ll leave,” she said.
“Why were you asking for insurance information and photocopies of people’s IDs?” Bauman asked Corletto.
“We need to make sure it’s you… We welcome everyone. Whether you have insurance or not, we will test you,” Corletto said.
“But why even ask for insurance?” Bauman asked.
“It’s just, uh…I don’t know,” Corletto said.
Deshi Senior Center told CBS2 that the information it collects is only for its lab partners and anyone who doesn’t get results can come back for another test.
The BBB recommends before going to a pop-up testing site, that you look it up on their website or that of the state health department.
The bureau adds that while the lines for COVID tests are now shrinking, experts are anticipating a new scam on the horizon taking advantage of the federal government offering free home test kits.
“You might have scammers who will create lookalike and sound like websites,” Rosenzweig said.
Data scientists are already beginning to find copycat domains, some redirecting to advertisements and others soliciting personal information.
So how can you tell the difference between the real deal and the scams?
“They have at the end dot gov. These are government websites. Government websites are very difficult to obtain, so they will be legitimate,” said fraud expert William Kresse.
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If you are concerned that you have fallen prey to an identity theft scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission.