Eshoo, Energy and Commerce Leaders Seek Answers From FTC & FDA About COVID-19 Antibody Test Scams
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) wrote to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. today regarding troubling reports about fraudulent antibody test scams occurring in consumer marketplaces. The four Committee leaders are seeking answers on what the FTC and FDA are doing to protect consumers from these scams.
“Throughout the coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, scammers have capitalized on consumers’ fear and uncertainty at every turn, including by selling fraudulent treatments and cures, offering sham tests and vaccines, and posing as government officials to obtain money and personal information,” the Committee leaders wrote to Simons and Hahn. “Although we do not yet know the degree to which COVID-19 antibodies provide protection against infection, there is now reportedly a significant demand for antibody tests among consumers who wish to return to their everyday activities against the advice of public health experts. It is no surprise that scammers are seeking to take advantage of this demand and are reportedly engaging in fraudulent antibody test scams.”
Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warned that scammers are marketing fraudulent and/or unapproved antibody tests to consumers in order to obtain their sensitive personal information, which can then later be used in identity theft or insurance theft schemes. The FBI’s warning indicates that scammers may employ various tactics to entice consumers, including by advertising the tests on social media platforms, directly contacting consumers through emails and telephone calls, and even offering money and posing as government officials.
“These scams are dangerous not only because of the potential for identity or insurance theft, but also because of their potential to provide a false sense of security to individuals who wish to return to their everyday lives,” the Committee leaders continued. “This jeopardizes the health and well-being of not only those that are scammed, but also the communities in which the individuals live, work, and socialize. Given that it remains unclear whether the presence of antibodies provides a level of protection against re-infection, it is imperative that your agency takes steps to ensure consumers are protected from scams that may affect their financial and physical well-being.”
To better understand how the FTC and FDA are responding to these scams, the Committee leaders requested information and answers to a series of questions by August 5, 2020, including:
- Has the agency determined the extent to which fraudulent antibody test scams are occurring in the marketplace?
- What resources are being used to monitor the marketplace to determine whether scams related to COVID-19 are occurring?
- If the agency receives indications that a scam is occurring, what criteria does it use to determine whether to launch an investigation into the potential scam? If the agency confirms a scam is being perpetrated, what resources can it employ to address the scam and protect consumers?
- Has the agency already taken action against any entities engaging in fraudulent antibody test scams?
To read the lawmakers’ letter to the FTC, click HERE.
To read the lawmakers’ letter to the FDA, click HERE.