Scammers Utilizing Fake Websites to Advertise Free COVID At-Home Tests, BBB Warns

Scammers are using fake websites resembling the federal government's at-home COVID-19 test request website to steal information, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

The Biden administration released one billion free at-home coronavirus testing kits last week, which can be ordered through the United States Postal Service, and scammers were quick to take advantage of the news, the BBB warned in a statement.

"But when the government rolls out big initiatives, such as the stimulus checks, scammers typically find ways to take advantage," the statement said.

The bureau warned of "lookalike" websites that could appear in web searches, on social media or in spam tests or emails. Once a person goes to the fake website, they may be asked to input personal information including their social security, Medicare ID, credit card information or health insurance information.

The official website does not request any of this information.

But the BBB offered consumers some tips to help identify the fake websites so they do not fall victim to the scams.

People are encouraged to look closely at the domain name to make sure it is correct. The domain should read: "https://special.usps.com/testkits." Scammers sometimes tap two letters out or make a minor spelling error to make their website seem like the genuine one, according to the BBB.

Authorities also warned to look out for "tricky subdomains."

"Sometimes attackers hope you will confuse a subdomain with the real domain name. For example, a scammer might use the subdomain name usps.faketestkit.com hoping you won't notice that "faketestkit.com" is not the correct domain name to get your free test kit, which is usps.com," the statement said.

The BBB also reminded that the real website will only ask for a person's name and address. The at-home tests are completely free, and people are not required to pay for shipping.

Anybody who spots a scam is encouraged to report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

Sandra Guile, director of communications for the BBB, wrote in a statement to Newsweek that online purchase scams reported to the bureau through the tracker have increased in recent years. In 2019, the scams accounted for 24.3 percent of reports but increased to 38.3 percent in 2020.

"These scams continue to pose a significant risk to consumers as scammers take advantage of the rapidly changing landscape," Guile said. "What often happens with online purchase scams is people lose money to counterfeit products because they are looking at availability and price of the product instead of researching the finer details such as the credibility of the retailer, customer reviews, and carefully looking at the image on the website."

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, scammers have seized on several opportunities to steal information or make a profit. As demand for more testing increased during the winter months due to the Omicron variant, there have been several scams created that center around testing.

Scammers using at-home covid test websites
The Better Business Bureau warned that scammers are using fake websites resembling the United States Postal Service's one to order free at-home coronavirus tests to steal information. Above, an at-home test is seen in Chicago on September 14, 2021. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Officials warned against unauthorized in-person testing sites that have popped up and have pointed out that any testing site that asks for personal information or payment may not be legitimate.

Scammers have also attempted to sell fake at-home coronavirus tests online. The Federal Trade Commission warned earlier in January that the fake tests are a waste of money and also increase the chance of unknowingly spreading the virus or getting the right treatment.

Updated 01/24/2022 2:02 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with a statement from Better Business Bureau.