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State consumer protection agency shares red flags to look for when choosing a COVID-19 testing site

COVID-19 negative test
Posted at 5:20 AM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 07:14:41-05

The vengeance of the Omicron variant has led to a lot more COVID-19 testing sites. But law enforcement agencies across the country have come across fake locations -- either fly-by-night drive-thrus or temporary sites popping up all over the United States.

For weeks now, the I-Team has received emails from viewers questioning whether their COVID-19 testing experience was legitimate.

In one case, a woman who didn't want to be identified told us she googled COVID-19 testing and came across this website, and found a testing location on Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee. When she arrived in the evening, she says the doors were locked and no one was inside. So, she decided to use the QR code at the testing site and register for her test.

She says she uploaded an image of her driver's license to do that and soon after, she received an email telling her that her Antigen test result was negative.

She wanted to take a COVID-19 PCR test, but the point is, she told the I-Team she never even took a test. The I-Team reached out to the company the woman visited called "Same Day COVID PCR."

A spokesperson told us, "We are a collection site. We collect samples and the lab processes them. We have switched labs due to internal concerns about their performances. Her results might've been sent by mistake due to a system failure."

After further investigation into the woman's case, a spokesperson explained there was a "malfunction in jotform, which is a system we use to send out results" and that "There was a system crash and we had to close down. Later when the system did go up, there was a mistake made backlogging all of the results. It was a technical error in jotform."

"These sites have popped up out of nowhere to meet the demand," said Lara Sutherin with the state's consumer protection agency, DATCP.

Sutherlin says not all COVID-19 testing sites have criminal intentions, but that doesn't mean you should let your guard down.

"If they're asking you for really personal information like your Social Security number or your passport, anything like that, that is most likely a scam and you absolutely should not provide that information," Sutherlin said.

She also stresses it's a red flag if a COVID-19 testing site asks for a fee since federal funding is supporting COVID-19 testing location.

She says some testing sites want to bill your insurance so they'll ask for your insurance information and driver's license. If you don't feel comfortable giving that out, find another testing site. You can find legitimate testing locations in Wisconsin by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services website.

If you come across a suspicious testing location, Sutherlin says you should report it to the state.

Consumers with concerns about COVD-19 testing related to long waits, unhygienic practices, billing problems, or testing quality should contact the Quality Assurance division at DHS at 1-800-642-6552.

People with complaints with COVID-19 testing concerning insurance billing, inappropriate fees for tests, or testing fraud like fake test kits, should contact the Inspector General at DHS at 1-877-865-3432.

The I-Team received a handful of complaints about unusual COVID-19 testing experiences. Federal inspectors are even looking into COVID-19 testing company called Center for Covid Control with locations in southeast Wisconsin.

It recently announced a pause on its operations saying "high patient demand has stressed its staffing resources" impacting its "customer service standards."

Sutherlin says testing sites will face scrutiny by the state if they don't deliver a service they say they provide.

"If we get a number of complaints about a site that says, 'Oh yeah, you're going to get this in 24 hours, and nobody is getting them in 24 hours, in fact, some people aren't getting them at all, we're going to take a look at that."

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