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Health, Science, Environment

Unauthorized COVID-19 testing in Fairview Heights raises concerns about a possible scam

Drive through coronavirus testing operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health at St. Clair Square on Dec. 3, 2020. Another unauthorized testing site has popped up at the mall raising concerns of a possible scam.
Derik Holtmann
/
Belleville News-Democrat
Drive through coronavirus testing operated by the Illinois Department of Public Health at St. Clair Square in 2020. An unauthorized testing site has popped up at the mall raising concerns of a possible scam.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

An unauthorized COVID-19 testing site popped up Friday and again Monday at St. Clair Square mall, raising concerns about possible fraudulent activity.

Illinois operates a legitimate drive-thru site at the St. Clair Square in Fairview Heights mall in the parking lot by the empty Sears store. The unauthorized site, first reported by KMOV, was set up at the Dillard’s entrance on Friday under the name “Crestview Clinical Laboratory.”

It was set up again Monday morning under the name “We the People,” said St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Director Herb Simmons.

Fairview Heights police ran them off Monday, Simmons said.

A list of legitimate testing sites in St. Clair County can be found at https://bit.ly/3qQInFw, and the Illinois Department of Public Health has a list at dph.illinois.gov/covid19/testing.html. People may also check with their local pharmacy, health care provider or health department for testing options.

A woman first became suspicious of the operation Friday when she saw its patient form, which asked for a social security number and if the patient was a United States citizen, Simmons said.

The legitimate state site asks patients to register through a mobile application called MyChart. They will never ask for a social security number or citizenship documentation, Simmons said.

The suspicious woman drove away to examine the form, and when she returned, people were packing up the tent and told her they were “going to lunch,” Simmons said.

“That was another red flag for her,” Simmons said.

Calls to Crestview Clinical Laboratory went directly to voicemail. The address listed on the form is the same as a post office in Encinitas, California. The clinic is included in a list of testing sites authorized by the state of California, but multiple reviews for the clinic on Google warned of a fake COVID test scam through links in text messages.

Patients who believe there may be fraud in COVID testing or other criminal activity should contact their local police department and the Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, according to an Illinois Department of Health spokeswoman. The division hotline can be reached at 1-800-243-0607.

A St. Clair Square spokeswoman said the testing site “was in no way affiliated with the mall.”

“We have contacted local police and banned this group and the individuals associated with it from the property,” spokeswoman Christine Poehling wrote in an email. “As a reminder, mall vendors will never ask customers to provide sensitive personal information.”

A spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health said they were checking on the issue. Fairview Heights police did not immediately return phone calls seeking information.

The legitimate public site operates 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and provides free testing.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Kelsey Landis is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.