Con Watch: A Continuing Pandemic of Scams — Phony Antibody Tests

Steve Weisman is a lawyer, college professor, author, and one of the country’s leading experts in cybersecurity, identity theft, and scams. See Steve’s other Con Watch articles.

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread throughout much of the country with many states facing serious increases in the numbers of infected people and crowded hospital intensive care units. With no vaccine presently in sight, much attention has been focused on antibody tests for COVID-19. A proper antibody test can determine if you have developed antibodies against COVID-19. Antibodies are typically a sign that you have previously been infected with the virus. While many people assume that the presence of antibodies means that you are protected from future infections by COVID-19, researchers are still studying whether or not this is true and, if so, for how long such immunity would last. Still the attraction of a positive antibody test is easy to understand.

Legitimate antibody tests are available, but it’s no surprise that scammers are jumping on the bandwagon and trying to sell you bogus tests that not only are worthless, but can make you a victim of identity theft. The FBI recently issued a warning about these scams.

Scammers often falsely claim that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved their test. Fortunately, it’s easy to confirm with the FDA whether or not the test being offered is an approved test. The FDA lists the actual tests that they have authorized.

Phony antibody tests are offered through phone calls, emails, text messages, and social media posts. You should immediately be skeptical of any antibody test being offered through these means because you can never be sure as to who is really contacting you. Through a simple technique called “spoofing” a scammer can pose as a public health official and manipulate your caller ID to make it appear that the call is from a legitimate source. Similarly, text messages, emails, and social media posts can all be easily hacked to appear to come from a reliable source when they actually are coming from a scammer. Trust me, you can’t trust anyone.

You should be particularly wary of anyone who contacts you offering a free antibody test or even offering to compensate you for taking such a test. These offers are used to gather information that can make you a victim of identity theft.

Never provide your Medicare or other health insurance information to someone offering an antibody test unless you have absolutely confirmed that the offer is genuine. Your Medicare identification number or your health insurance policy information can be sold on the black market, which can have dire consequences when an imposter’s information becomes mixed in with your medical records.

Before taking or purchasing any kind of antibody test, you should first confirm that the test is approved by the FDA. Most importantly, consult with your primary care physician about taking such a test. You also should make sure that the laboratory doing the test is one approved by your health insurance company and confirm that they will cover the cost of such a test.

Featured image: Monika Wisniewska / Shutterstock