Is Your COVID Test Real?

What to know about which COVID-19 tests are fake or unauthorized and which have been recalled.

Kim Wong-Shing Former Senior Associate Editor / Wellness
During her time at CNET, Kim Wong-Shing loved demystifying the world of wellness to make it accessible to any reader. She was also passionate about exploring the intersections of health, history and culture. Prior to joining CNET, she contributed stories to Glamour, MindBodyGreen, Greatist and other publications.
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Kim Wong-Shing
3 min read
COVID-19 home testing kit
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While the recording-breaking numbers of COVID-19 that defined this winter are declining and mask mandates are dropping, COVID-19 is still spreading. And while it's probably easier to get your hands on a test now than it was a couple of months ago, you still need to be confident that the one you use will give you accurate results. 

In January, the FDA told people to stop using tests from LuSys Laboratories, also sold under the names Luscient Diagnostics, Vivera Pharmaceuticals and EagleDx. These tests likely have a "high risk of false results," the FDA believes. Now, the FDA is warning people against using a test called Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing) because it's not authorized for use in the US (though it might be in other countries). This test comes in a dark blue box and is different from the one called Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test, which comes in a white box. The white-box Flowflex test is FDA-authorized and hasn't been recalled.

If you think you might be stuck with a fake or unauthorized test or just want to prevent future trickery, here's what you should know about avoiding fake COVID-19 tests.

Read more: At-home COVID tests are free now, but how can you get them?

Shop from trusted retailers

You can now request four free COVID-19 tests per household from an official government website. Just go to COVIDtests.gov and enter your information; orders typically ship between seven and 10 days.

If you need a test sooner than that, though, you'll have to shop around. Your first line of protection against fake tests is choosing a trusted retailer. Chain retailers such as CVS and Walgreens don't stock fraudulent products of any kind, whether face masks or home test kits.

You can also find home COVID-19 tests at local pharmacies, hardware stores, big-box stores like Target or Walmart, or medical supply stores. All of these are trustworthy places to shop, whether in person or online.

Amazon, on the other hand, can be a bit Wild West-like at times, since there are thousands of sellers who list products there. If you're shopping on eBay, Craigslist, social media or other online sellers, you're far more vulnerable to fraud unless you know exactly what you're looking for (and how to shop safely).

Read more: How to find an at-home COVID-19 test today

Only buy FDA-authorized brands

The US Food and Drug Administration is in charge of authorizing COVID-19 tests for home use, with more than 40 home tests making the cut so far. To avoid fakes, you should only buy tests that are on the FDA's list

Some common brands that are FDA-authorized include:

  • BinaxNow
  • QuickVue
  • Flowflex (the test sold in the white box, not the dark blue box)
  • iHealth
  • BD Veritor
  • InteliSwab

The FDA also has a list of fraudulent COVID-19 products that have received warning letters for making false claims and misleading consumers. Do a quick search for your COVID-19 test in this database to ensure that it's not on the list of fraudulent products.

Note that COVID-19 test kits expire after several months (although in some cases they can last up to a year). Make sure your test hasn't passed its expiration date.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Shop online safely

If you find yourself turning to less well-vetted online suppliers, shop safely to avoid getting scammed.

First, look up the seller on Google to see if you can find any credible information or reviews. Make sure to add the keyword "scam" or "review" to your search for more targeted results. On sites like Amazon or eBay, it's also good practice to check reviews and click on the seller's name for more info. 

If you do make a purchase, use a credit card so that you can dispute the charge if necessary. Do not enter any payment information on third-party sites. 

We don't recommend buying secondhand tests from individuals on marketplaces like Facebook or Craigslist. While reselling tests is legal, selling test kits is prohibited on Facebook, the company told CNN Business (and the same goes for Instagram, which is owned by Facebook). And in general, buying from unauthorized individuals leaves you more vulnerable to fraud -- there's no real way to vet the seller, and you can't exactly ask for a refund if things don't work out. Not to mention, unauthorized sellers' tests aren't free or eligible for FSA or HSA reimbursement, as other test kits were as of Jan. 15, per the Biden-Harris administration's plan.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.