Rise in testing demand leads to concern over legitimate testing sites

(David Zalubowski | AP)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 11:04 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - To keep up with the rise in COVID-19 cases and demand for testing, Public Health Madison and Dane County reopened the Alliant Energy Center for appointment-based, walk-in testing. But with demand for testing so high, the conversation about discerning legitimate testing locations is renewed.

Our newsroom has heard several concerns from viewers worried that in trying to do the right thing -- getting tested to protect the ones they love -- they may have been scammed. At worst, providing their personal information to potentially illegitimate companies. At least, wasting their time with unprofessional sites.

Heather Bott is one of those viewers. She says the splits her time between Milwaukee and Madison, visiting her dad in the latter who is vulnerable to the virus. She reached out to our newsroom after getting tested at a Madison pop-up clinic Monday. It was close to her dad’s home, and she figure it could be a site she could regularly attend before and after seeing her dad.

But she says she left the location feeling uneasy. The person running the clinic took photos of her Medicare card and driver’s license. She was then given a cheek swab (the rapid test she did herself) and nasal swab (PCR test). She says the clinician threw the cheek swab out immediately and recorded a negative test, then told Bott it would be five days before she would get the PCR results.

“I won’t go back there again,” she said. “They have my Medicare number, driver’s license info and DNA. What else is there? The keys to my house?”

All three viewers who have reached out to NBC15 are reporting the same testing clinic. The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is also looking into their claims.

“You want to make sure that you know what they are doing with your personal information,” said Tiffany Bernhardt Schultz, Director of the Southwest Wisconsin BBB. “Who has access to it? How long is it being store? How is it being destroyed? When is it being destroyed?”

Testing centers, like the reopened Alliant, do not required an ID or proof of insurance to get a swab.

“Typically, the sites that are charging insurance are going to want your insurance information and ID so they can appropriately bill,” said Public Health Madison & Dane County’s COVID-19 testing Director Ken Van Horn. “There are a lot of sites like ours that don’t need that information in order to give you a test.”

Both Schultz and Van Horn say the best way to be sure you’re at a legitimate site is to check with the Department of Health Services and/or PHMDC.

“The places we trust and are willing to recommend to people are listed on the website,” said Van Horn.

Bott says she plans to use the Alliant from now on.

“Go to the established sites,” she said. “[The Alliant was] so well organized, treated me really well, everything moved really well. It feels more legit to me.”

Her warning for those looking to get tested:

“We just need to be careful and really thoughtful about this,” Bott said. “We want to be careful and protect people in our lives by getting these tests, but we also need to be careful and use good judgment about where we go because we are giving up a lot of information and we don’t know where that information is going.”

If you are concerned that you have been scammed, the BBB is directing people to this link to report complaints.

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