Free COVID-19 Test-Kit Scams

By Crystal Baldwin and Cristina Leiva

A National Consumer Protection Week feature and second in a Two-Part Series on COVID-19 Test Kits. “National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a time to help people understand their consumer rights and avoid frauds and scams” (FTC). 

Earlier this week, it was announced that Americans can order more free at-home COVID-19 tests from the U.S. government at This second round of tests are available for free through There are no shipping costs, and you don’t have to give a credit card or bank account number. You only need to give a name and address. Once you place an order, you’ll get an order confirmation number. If you give your email address, you’ll also get an order confirmation email and delivery updates. Anyone who asks for more information than that is a scammer.

Don’t get scammed when doing your part to get tested!

Scammers love when things are offered for free because they can quickly create a website making the same claim, while requiring personal information and payment for additional charges like “shipping/handling” or “expediting” or “priority service”. They seize the opportunity to cash in when emotions are high—which is the case when trying to stay healthy amid a global pandemic.   

COVID-19 TEST-KIT SCAM ALERT: Unsolicited requests for your health insurance information, phony offers for FREE test kits asking for payment, Peer-to-peer sellers.
COVID-19 Test-Kit Scam Alert by CAP

COVID-19 Test Kit Scams Might Look Like:

  • Unsolicited requests for your health insurance information, such as Medicare, in exchange for free test kits.
  • Phony offers of FREE test kits with payment required, such as for shipping/handling.
  • Peer-to-peer sellers: Friends, family, neighbors and others on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist and other listing sites.
  • Unreputable vendors in retail pop-up shops or online.
  • The sale of invalid COVID-19 test kits.
  • Unsolicited offers to obtain free test kits, such as through telemarketing, email, and other unverified channels.

Hang up on solicitations claiming to offer free test kits in exchange for your personal information, insurance, or money! If you are looking for free test kits, seek them out through valid sources outlined in the Consumer Assistance Program’s free COVID-19 test kits blog.

Look out for these red flags:

  • Requests to pay a fee for free tests.
  • Claims of expedited delivery with additional payment.
  • Receiving results after you sign up and pay, but before you’ve been tested.
  • Tests that are not FDA authorized.

If you have encountered a free COVID-19 test scam, report it to the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) through CAP’s online scam reporting form.  

Regarding COVID-19 updates and information, the best place in Vermont to check is the Vermont Department of Health.

Resources:, Vermont Department of Health

Rapidly Trying to Get a FREE Rapid COVID-19

By Crystal Baldwin 

First in a Two-Part Series on Free COVID-19 Test Kits 

On Christmas day, I found out I was a close contact to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. Testing sites were closed for the holidays, and I hadn’t yet purchased any rainy day rapid COVID test kits. So, I did what many of you have had to, I hunkered down and waited until I was able to schedule a PCR test.    

More than a month later now, I have been obtaining test kits from anywhere humanly possible; but not from scammers. I’ll admit, it’s been tricky figuring out not only which tests have FDA clearance, but also, how to obtain free test kits. I was dismayed when I called pharmacies and was provided the same message: No test kits in stock. I decided not to search the internet, predicting it would be a fruitless effort ripe with fake kits and hiked prices and store fronts offering freebies—which I knew to be impossible at the time—while requiring a steep payment for shipping and handling.  

At-home COVID-19 test kits

Now that the holiday demand surge has passed, there are ways to obtain free test kits. Just last week, I ordered from and I managed to be one of the lucky firsts to have an order filled by After providing my name, delivery address and email, they promised to send four test kits to my house: free of charge. And they did. The kits arrived in an Amazon smile box. While their site currently says they are out of stock, folks should check back as test kits will become available again for distribution. I submitted a request to, too. The site redirected me to the US Postal Service site,, where I merrily provided my information for my kits to be mailed to me when they are available. 

I have not yet obtained a test kit from the pharmacy. However, I am looking forward to when the stores are well-stocked so that I can purchase them as needed and submit a request for reimbursement to my health insurance provider.  

At-home tests kits are now covered by private health insurance.   

Private health insurance: Each person covered by the plan can get free COVID-19 test kits by submitting a request for reimbursement claim form—up to eight test kits per month for tests purchased since December 2021. 

  • Visit your insurance provider’s website or contact them directly for more information. For your convenience, I have included claim form links to common private health insurance providers in Vermont: 

At this time, obtaining at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits through public health insurance coverage, such as Medicare and Medicaid, is managed differently: 

Medicaid: Programs are required to cover FDA-authorized at-home COVID-19 tests purchased at the pharmacy counter with a valid prescription. Note that Vermont’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mark Levine issued a standing order that may be used by Vermont residents as a prescription or third-party prescription to obtain COVID-19 At-Home Antigen Test Kits (  

Medicare: While at-home antigen test kits cannot currently be purchased and reimbursed by Medicare, COVID-19 diagnostic tests ordered by an authorized health care professional and performed by a laboratory are.  

When purchasing from the pharmacy, I plan to check on availability when I happen to be in the store, rather than calling and occupying their phone line while they are short-staffed. 

I’ll keep my eyes and ears open for notices about free test kit availability from trusted sources, like the Vermont Department of Health, Community Health Centers, schools, employers and local government, while keeping in mind that free PCR testing remains an option throughout the state.  

 You Can Get Free COVID-19 Test Kits! 

February 2022: Where to get FREE COVID-19 Test Kits. Pharmacy: Private Insurance; submit reimbursemnt claim form with copy of receipt, Medicaid; With prescription, pharmacy must submit bill, Medicare; check in early spring for coverage updates. Community Health Centers/Schools/Employers: Based on eligibility and availability. Get Updates: Vermont Department of Health
Where to get FREE COVID-19 Test Kits

Eventually, there will be enough test kits to supply all the folks who want and need them. If you are ever curious about the latest updates on COVID-19 test kit availability and testing sites, check in directly with the Vermont Department of Health.  

Be well. Together, we will get through this.  

Resources: Fact Sheet: The Biden Administration to Begin Distributing At-Home, Rapid COVID-19 Tests to Americans for Free, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, HRSA Data Warehouse, Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, Vermont Department of Health

The Awful COVID-19 Hardship Benefits and Compensation Scam

Today, our office issued a scam alert to warn about a scam that monopolizes on our COVID-19 hardship.  The email claims that the Vermont Department of Labor has recognized the difficulty the pandemic has caused and will pay $3750 starting today.  All that is needed is identity verification. What Vermont family couldn’t use this extra help?  Especially while many Vermonters enter the holiday season. 

According to a recent UVM study, 1 in 3 Vermonters are food insecure (Niles, et al. UVM).  You and I may have guessed that.  The lines at food drives and food shelves have gotten longer, not shorter.  The Everyone Eats program is overloaded with participant families.  Vermonters are hungry, in search of hope, and then in comes this email promising prosperity and money.  It is despicable.   

Just think what you could do with that money.  You could buy a traditional Thanksgiving meal at the grocery store, like you always used to. You could ensure your family is well fed over holiday breaks.  You could give your children a winter season worth remembering.   

Unfortunately, with this scam and all phishing scams, the scam keeps going once the information has been provided to the scammer.  Accounts are opened in your name without your knowledge or consent.  The scammers could even use the information they have gathered to apply for unemployment insurance benefits in your name.          

Screen capture of scam email claiming COVID-19 benefits and compensation will be issued.

The fact that a scam outfit would capitalize on the pandemic is inconceivable.  Let’s teach these scammers a lesson.  The more who know about this scam, the less will respond.  Share this information with your community and others you care about.  When you share, be sure to let others know if they receive one of these notices: 

  • Move scam emails to your junk folder.
  • Block text messages.
  • Do NOT click on any links or attachments.
  • Do NOT respond and do NOT send money.

Call the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 if you have questions, concerns, or need help determining if you have been a victim of a scam.  Learn more about the scam and report it to the Vermont Department of Labor:  

If you have basic needs that are not being met, such as access to food, warmth, and shelter, connect with your local Community Action Agency and 211.  They can help connect you to resources and assistance in your community.  

Event Cancellation Guidance

As a result of the COVID-19 emergency, countless Vermonters have dealt with the cancellation of travel plans and other event reservations. Although disappointing, these cancellations are helping keep the public safe and slow the spread of the virus. To assist Vermont consumers and businesses in understanding their rights and responsibilities related to these canceled plans, the Attorney General’s Office offers the following guidance:

Step 1: Look at the contract or agreement

  • To determine whether a business must refund a consumer’s payment, read any cancellation policies or other similar terms in any contracts or agreements that were in place at the time of payment.

Step 2: Locate cancellation policies

  • If a properly disclosed cancellation policy states that some or all of a consumer’s payment may be non-refundable, consumers’ options may be limited.
  • If a cancellation policy is not properly disclosed – for example, because it was given to the consumer only after the contract or agreement was signed – then the cancellation policy may not be valid.

Step 3: If necessary, the Consumer Assistance Program is available to mediate

  • If a cancellation policy says that a consumer is entitled to a refund in the event of an involuntary cancellation but the business refuses to provide a refund, the consumer may file a complaint with the Consumer Assistance Program by calling 1-800-649-2424 or visiting
  • If there are no contract terms or other policies that apply to cancellations under circumstances like these, the Attorney General’s Office urges businesses to work with consumers to find acceptable solutions. While it may be reasonable for a business to keep some portion of its fees to cover costs that were actually incurred before cancellation, businesses should work with consumers to come to a satisfactory resolution for both parties.
  • Like individual consumers, businesses also may have protections when they are in the role of consumers. For example, a business is a consumer when they are purchasing items that are not for resale, such as supplies or equipment for use by their business. If you own a business and have a consumer-type problem, you can also contact the Consumer Assistance Program to file a complaint.

The Attorney General’s Office recognizes that Vermonters are facing unprecedented hardships at this time, and encourages business owners and consumers to work together to find reasonable resolutions of their disputes. If any consumer feels a business is not living up to the terms of their agreement or is otherwise not playing fair, they should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program to file a complaint by calling 1-800-649-2424 or visiting

Is price gouging in your community?

When I went to the pharmacy today, there was a handwritten sign on the entrance, “No more hand sanitizer and face masks.”  Like many of you, my email inbox has been flooded with precautionary warnings of the COVID-19 virus and advice as to what people can do to stay healthy.  With very few reports of the virus in Vermont as of today, the sign at the pharmacy was confirmation to me that Vermonters are worried; so worried that my fellow neighbors bought the pharmacy’s entire stock of hand sanitizer and face masks. 

I wasn’t shopping for hand sanitizer and face masks today, but if I were, I might have ventured down the road to the next pharmacy.  The question on my mind now is, if the next pharmacy had stock, how much would the products cost?  I’ve seen news reports of stores in other states charging $130 for an average bottle of hand sanitizer.  Last I checked locally, before COVID-19 virus news, hand sanitizer cost between $3 and $7 depending on brand and price.  Going from $7 to $130 is about a 1800% increase.  To me, such an increase is considered price gouging. Generally, price gouging is when sellers unfairly hike prices of essential consumer goods and services during an emergency or disaster.

Many states have very specific regulations about price gouging, identifying price increases of more than 10% over the cost of the item as gouging.  Vermont has a price gouging statute specifically referencing the prohibition of gouging on the price of petroleum products and heating fuel products once a market emergency has been declared by the Governor (9 V.S.A. § 2461d).  As of today, such a declaration has not been made, and the Consumer Assistance Program has heard only one complaint about fuel cost increases due to COVID-19.  In addition to this statute, price gouging in Vermont may be considered unfair and deceptive.  Vermont’s consumer protection statute informs that “unfair methods of competition in commerce and unfair deceptive acts or practices in commerce” are unlawful.  Businesses setting unconscionable prices on essential items during a crisis, such as a price increase of 18 times the typical retail value as in my example above, could be in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, 9 V.S.A. §§ 2451 et seq.   

If you have noticed steep price increases of essential items and related services at specific businesses following the alert of the COVID-19 virus, file a complaint with the Consumer Assistance Program by calling 800-649-2424 or visiting

Other resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 virus resources
Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 virus updates

Contributing Writer: Crystal Baldwin