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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly heightened anxiety around the health and welfare of families. Now, with the challenge of trying to find a COVID test, scammers are beginning to profit from your anxiety by offering free COVID tests to try and steal your personal information and your money.  

Makenzie Howes of Hazel Green says as soon as she made an appointment for a COVID test, she received a message on one of her social media accounts demanding her personal information.

“I mean I don’t know why somebody would play like that or send messages like that or whatever,” said Howes.

She added the message startled her.  

“I don’t know why I was scared but just getting something like that and knowing that this COVID-19 stuff is really real. But with stuff being real in kind of affected me,” she added. 

The United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of The Inspector General have taken notice of the scammers.

“What we have found is that fraudsters are using this crisis, this COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of unsuspecting people and they are targeting everyone,” said Tamala Miles, a special agent in charge with the HHS.

Miles says that fake COVID testing sites have been popping up in malls and other unusual places, all set up through text messages and social media while offering fake vaccination cards. All they need is your insurance carrier and the information that you provided when you signed up to get a COVID test. 

Miles warns, “Do not give your information out for a free COVID test. Be cautious of people showing up at your door for you to participate in a free vaccine survey for gifts and things like that and most importantly do not share your vaccine card on social media. Remember that card has your personal identification information on it and that’s a fraudster needs to continue to commit fraud against our programs.” 

Miles adds that fraudsters are getting more desperate and cunning by using telemarketing calls, text messages, your social media platforms and even knocking on your front door to offer gifts for signing up for a free test.

If you or anyone you know suspect COVID fraud, contact the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of The Inspector General by calling 1-800-447-TIPS.