Philly Health Department warns of possible COVID-19 testing scam

The city is investigating reports of COVID-19 testing sites that claimed to be affiliated with FEMA. The federal agency does not have any Philly testing clinics at this time.

People line up to receive COVID-19 test kits in New York

In this file photo, people line up to receive test kits to detect COVID-19 as they are distributed in the Lower East Side neighborhood in the Manhattan borough of New York Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

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The Philadelphia Health Department is sending out an urgent warning that some pop-up COVID-19 testing sites might not be legitimate.

Spokesperson James Garrow said the department is investigating reports that came last week of a group or groups that set up on-street testing tents in the city the groups claimed were sponsored by FEMA. However, Garrow said the federal agency told the city it did not have any testing clinics in Philadelphia at this time.

“I learned that FEMA has reached out to their parent company that was running this and has asked them to stop mentioning FEMA and take the FEMA logo off of their materials,” he said. “It’s possible these places are doing legitimate testing, but given some of the previous problems we’ve had with partners and a group misrepresenting themselves on something as basic as who’s funding them, it gives us pause and we ask the residents of Philadelphia to be careful when they look for testing sites.”

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Garrow said one potential warning sign includes sites asking people to pay for tests, which are free.

“Our real worry is if you give private information to one of these organizations and they’re not actually doing testing,” he said. “Who knows where it could end up and what position it could put folks in.”

Philadelphia does have a website listing verified testing providers. Garrow adds that if you have COVID-19 symptoms, it’s better to quarantine than to go to a questionable site for a test.

“We certainly understand people’s motivations to want to use these sites, but you just have to be careful and really start to ask questions before you do it in lieu of that,” he said.

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Philadelphia is working to expand its testing capacity, said Garrow, but for now, people should stick to trusted providers.

“A site that said they are going to take information and take a sample and you’ll hear back from them in a week with your results, you have no recourse if they don’t get back to you, whereas if it’s in urgent care or a health center or one of our many testing partners, you know where they are and you know who to contact for if there’s a problem,” he said.

If you or someone you know may have been the victim of a testing scam, the health department wants to know. The number to call is 215-685-5488.

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