FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The rise in the demand for COVID-19 testing has also prompted a rise in the number of fraudulent test centers, according to the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

A warning issued by the department on Wednesday says pop-up testing sites on street corners, parking lots, and shopping centers can be unregulated – and could lead to fraudulent activities like identity theft.

“It feels like a game of whack-a-mole, honestly,” said Fresno County’s Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra. “There’s just so much pressure to get tested, for better or for worse, the market is going to meet that pressure and that demand.”

Health officials suggest asking a few specific questions at the testing site to help you figure out if it is legitimate or not. That includes asking:

  • To see medical credentials.
  • Which laboratory test is being used, either PCR or Rapid Test.
  • Where the test is being processed and if it is being sent to a lab.
  • How the results will be reported.

“If they’re connected to a medical provider, that’s a really good indication of a credible resource,” added Joe Prado with Fresno County Department of Public Health.

Health department officials say fraudulent testing sites can also be identified by the questions they ask you, or even where they are set up. That includes:

  • Asking for social security numbers or other non-medical information.
  • Materials at the testing site without a logo.
  • Testing site is on a sidewalk and not affiliated with a medical provider.
  • Unexpectedly short test results (most FDA approved rapid tests provide results between 10 and 20 minutes, anything less than that is questionable).

Fresno County’s interim health officer says those looking to get tested should take proactive steps to protect themselves, such as verifying credentials at the testing site – or using an approved testing location such as those listed on your local health department’s website. At-home tests can also be requested from the federal government if you haven’t already ordered yours.

“We’ve seen reports of unauthorized COVID-19 test sites popping up statewide and these types of sites could potentially expose individuals to nefarious fraudulent activities like identity theft,” said Dr. Vohra.

Health officials warn anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to consider themselves infected and isolate themselves according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.