CHICAGO – The Oregon Department of Justice and the Better Business Bureau have launched investigations into an Illinois-based company that runs coronavirus testing sites across the nation.
The Oregon agency opened a civil investigation into the Center for COVID Control this week on suspicion of Unfair Trade Practices Act violations, spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said.
The company operates testing sites across the nation – some of them “pop-ups” run out of sheds and mobile storage units. Many Americans have rushed to the sites amid a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant and a national shortage of tests. But dozens of people nationwide have reached out to USA TODAY expressing concerns about the company.
Many said they discovered the sites by searching for nearby testing options on Google and were surprised by how the sites were run. Some said they received their test results later than promised or not at all.
At least two people filed complaints about the Center for COVID Control testing sites to the Oregon Justice Department in October, USA TODAY reported last week. They expressed concerns about the safety and legitimacy of the sites, alleging the sites offer “fake testing.” One said they were given a test labeled as having expired in June 2021.
The department declined to provide additional information on the investigation.
What’s the Center for COVID Control?:Questionable sites spotlight nation’s thirst for quick testing
Meanwhile, the BBB-Minnesota and North Dakota on Monday joined an investigation into the company initiated by BBB Chicago and Wisconsin, Bao Vang, vice president of communications for the BBB-Minnesota and North Dakota, told USA TODAY.
“BBBs across the U.S. are receiving inquiries, Scam Tracker submissions, complaints, and reviews regarding various COVID testing sites, including inquiries regarding Center for COVID Control,” BBB spokeswoman Sandra Guile said.
Thomas Johnson, spokesperson for the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said the Center for COVID Control “has been unresponsive to the BBB inquiring about the complaints.”
“Center for Covid Control has the lowest grade the BBB can give a business as well as the lowest customer review rating,” Johnson said.
According to Johnson, people reporting to the BBB allege they did not receive test results, received incorrect test results or paid money for expedited results that were not delivered. They allege the company is “asking for a lot of personal information” and not responding to customers with questions, Johnson said.
The Center for COVID Control “recently” hired Crossnore Group, an Austin-based public relations firm, spokesman Russ Keene told USA TODAY late Monday. The company did not immediately respond to request for comment on the investigations.
Washington State has received two complaints about the Center for COVID Control, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. Illinois has received seven complaints about the company, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office said.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a consumer alert Tuesday warning residents about “pop-up” coronavirus testing sites. He did not name the Center for COVID Control specifically.
“It is important for people to know that these sites are not licensed or regulated by a government agency,” Raoul said in a statement, “and they should ask questions before visiting a pop-up testing location – or try to utilize a state-sponsored testing site.”
There has been an increase in COVID-19 fraud complaints, including complaints related to coronavirus testing, an official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General said Tuesday.
“We are seeing fraudulent activity around testing. It could be random pop-up sites, and it could be at-home test kits,” said Yvonne Gamble, the office’s acting director of communications. “Be vigilant. Be careful. Be mindful, and make sure whoever you are dealing with is an authorized provider and a place that you can trust.”
Florida’s attorney general issued a statement last week warning about new and reemerging coronavirus test scams. The statement cited “recent reports of suspicious COVID-19 testing sites popping up in Illinois” that “appear legitimate but are designed to steal personal information from unsuspecting test seekers.”
Christina Weber, 31, of Minneapolis, said she reported a Center for COVID Control testing site to local officials and was later contacted by an investigator for the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, who informed her she was not the first to report a complaint with the site.
The office was unable to confirm or deny the existence of complaints or investigations under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, said John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
“That said, we would like to hear from anyone who has a complaint with this service (or any COVID-19-related good or service),” Stiles said.
The Center for COVID Control’s principal and mailing address is in Rolling Meadows, Illinois – a one-story commercial office building about 15 miles northwest of O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
A Doctors Clinical Laboratory at the same address is registered with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an independent lab. A phone number listed on a website for the lab directs callers to a recorded message for the Center for COVID Control.
Have you experienced issues with the Center for COVID Control? Contact reporter Grace Hauck at email@example.com.