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L.A. County supervisors move to crack down on COVID-19 testing scams

A long line of people wearing masks wait on a sidewalk
People stand in line at a coronavirus testing site in Santa Monica on Jan. 3. High demand for tests “has led to some taking advantage of the situation by distributing and setting up fraudulent COVID-19 tests and testing sites,” says a motion approved Tuesday by L.A. County supervisors.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion Tuesday to address fraudulent coronavirus test sites and at-home kits as a surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant has many people scrambling to find testing appointments and equipment.

“In the past month, demand for COVID-19 testing in Los Angeles County and across the country has skyrocketed, drastically outpacing supply,” according to the motion, introduced by Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “Unfortunately, this has led to some taking advantage of the situation by distributing and setting up fraudulent COVID-19 tests and testing sites.”

Barger’s motion calls for the county departments of health, consumer affairs and public safety to examine the risks of fraudulent tests and develop a communications and crackdown strategy in 30 days.

The motion comes as Los Angeles County hit 2 million coronavirus cases Monday, with a test positivity rate of more than 20%.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week issued an alert about coronavirus testing and vaccination scams.

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“Scammers are selling fake and unauthorized at-home COVID-19 test kits in exchange for your personal or medical information,” the department wrote on its website. “Make sure to purchase FDA-approved COVID-19 test kits from legitimate providers.”

Parents and students grew frustrated Monday as they stood in long lines when the district’s health-check app failed.

The federal agency also noted schemes targeting Medicare beneficiaries and retirement communities, offering fake tests in exchange for personal details and in some cases drawing blood and billing federal healthcare services.

The alert comes as at-home and professional testing availability has come under intense strain, with test-seekers waiting hours in long lines, traveling far distances or paying well above asking price for an at-home test.

Some kits, usually priced around $15, have been seen for as much as $70 on online marketplaces.

For the record:

10:16 a.m. Jan. 12, 2022An earlier version of this article misidentified the person who said the L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs is “in the beginning stages” of investigating reports of price gouging. The agency director, Rafael Carbajal, provided that information.

The L.A. County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs is “in the beginning stages” of investigating reports of price gouging on tests, agency director Rafael Carbajal said.

Price gouging can be reported at stoppricegouging.dcba.lacounty.gov.


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