Houston lawmaker calls on FBI to review pop-up COVID testing sites

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is requesting for the FBI to investigate nationwide and Houston 'pop-up' testing sites to make sure they are operating under federal guidelines.

On Wednesday, Jackson Lee said that several community members and a recent ABC13 report highlighted concerns due to delayed test results and a temporary site that moved to another location.

"I do want the FBI to take a look at whatever is appropriate under their authority, any allegations made about a pop-up center," Jackson Lee said. "The best thing for them to do would be to set up a number or give the number that can be utilized so that the nation, I've just called out Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Antonio, Chicago as clear examples where the health department have been trying to stop people from going to these pop-up centers."

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A letter she wrote to the director of the FBI reads in part:

"This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the contact information provided by these sites, including telephone and email addresses, are often disconnected and/or incorrect."

According to the CDC, since the first discovery of the omicron variant, there has been a significant increase in the demand for COVID-19 tests, causing some to take advantage of the system.

Local officials, the Better Business Bureau and government agencies including the FBI have been warning the community to look out for any potential fraudulent activity involving COVID rapid tests or unauthorized testing sites.

Although there's no indication that people had to pay at the location Jackson Lee commented about, Dan Parsons, president of BBB Metropolitan Houston & South Texas said that some red flags you should look out for are if a site is asking for you to give out a lengthy amount of personal information or asking for payment upfront in order to get a test.

"Signs on the freeway, 'COVID Tests, come on in,'" Parsons said. "You know who is behind this? Some guy who just set up a tent. We've actually seen examples of that where they literally go in, take your swab, and throw it away in the garbage. The number one sign is how it's being marketed."

Parsons said it's also important for people to report any possible fraudulent sites on the BBB scam tracker to help prevent others from falling for similar schemes.

"If you lost your money, or almost lost your money, don't let it go," Parsons said. "Because if you can stop 10 more people from getting into it, that's important."

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