BBB: Where can I get COVID test kits?


Caller to the Better Business Bureau: “I don’t know where to get COVID test kits. Every store I visit is out of them. I see them advertised on the internet, but they are very expensive and some of the ads look phony. The kits they are selling look fake. I don’t trust them. I keep hearing that the government will be sending everyone test kits, but I don’t know when that will happen. I need to test myself and my family now. Does BBB know where I can get COVID home test kits?”

We don’t know where to buy these kits either; they are in short supply. But you are wise to beware of internet sellers. The Federal U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that fake and unauthorized at-home testing kits are popping up online as scammers take advantage of the spike in demand.

Using fake test kits isn’t just a waste of money, it increases your risk of unknowingly spreading COVID-19 or not getting the appropriate treatment. So, if you’re shopping online for COVID test kits and related items, the FDA gives these warnings:

First, make sure the test you’re buying is authorized by the FDA. They have lists of approved antigen diagnostic tests and molecular diagnostic tests on their web site. Be sure any tests you buy are authorized for home use (EUA is “emergency use authorization.”)

Next, check out the seller before you buy, especially if you’re buying from a site you don’t know. Search online for the website, company, or seller’s name plus words like “scam,” “complaint,” or “review.” Check to see if they have a BBB report at BBB.org.

Compare online reviews from a wide variety of websites. Read user reviews on various retail or shopping comparison sites. Think about the source of the review. Ask yourself: Where is this review coming from? Is it from an expert organization or individual customers?

Finally, always pay by credit card. If you’re charged for an order you never got, or for a product that’s not as advertised, contact your credit card company and dispute the charge.

As far as the free government test kits, the government has announced that Americans will have the chance to order free at-home COVID-19 tests. Families can order up to four at-home COVID-19 antigen tests per household. Consumers can self-administer the tests and have results, usually in 15 to 30 minutes. They are different from lab tests, known as PCR tests, which look for viral genetic material but can take up to three days to return results. To order, go to COVIDTests.gov. There will also be a phone number for folks that are not on the internet. The goal is to ship within seven to 12 days from the day you order, but news reports indicate that the test kits are in short supply, so they may not be received until the end of January or later.

The government reports that folks can also obtain the kits through their pharmacies or retail stores and their medical insurance companies are supposed to reimburse you. We suggest you contact your insurance company to see what they require and how to file for the reimbursal.