On Thursday, March 12, officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), managed to intercept a package containing fake test kits of the Chinese coronavirus at Los Angeles International Airport.
During a routine compliance check, officials found six plastic bags containing the test kits in a shipment from the United Kingdom that were marked “Purified Water Vials,” the agency said on Saturday.
CBP officers seized suspected counterfeit COVID-19 test kits. At-home COVID-19 test kits found online are fake. Authorized testing for COVID-19 is conducted in verified state & local public health labs across the US.
Read more: https://t.co/U9hdERABkN pic.twitter.com/WeYKQfq3ES
— CBP (@CBP) March 14, 2020
The seizure of the bags, which were also marked “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit” were discovered thanks to a thorough assessment of the shipment by CBP officials. The agency said it was a “significant interception, at a time when the U.S. is in the midst of a National Emergency,” ABC News reported.
The package with the forged evidence was handed over to the Food and Drug Administration. So far, access to the tests for the Wuhan coronavirus is restricted to those who really need it, federal officials told ABC.
CBP’s port director at Los Angeles International Airport, LaFonda Sutton Burke, said, “CBP commits substantial resources to detect, intercept, and seize illicit goods arriving in the air package environment (…) Smugglers are constantly attempting to take advantage of consumers by disguising their illicit goods as legitimate shipments.”
Careful of Scammers
For now, reports indicate that anxiety about the pandemic has led to fraudsters taking advantage of the situation.
According to BizPac Review, last Friday Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and County District Attorney Jackie Lacey held a press conference to warn citizens about the rising prices of illegal treatments and the announcement of fake cures.
Feuer said, “We’re fighting to protect an anxious and uncertain public from price-gouging, online scams, and misinformation.”
“My office is investigating traditional stores and online retailers, uncovering unsubstantiated advertising claims about alleged coronavirus prevention, treatment, and cures, and investigating safety products—such as protective masks—that may not perform as advertised, as well as products being sold at astronomical prices. And we’re taking action. If you’re a victim, please contact our office,” he added.
Likewise, Lacey said, “As prosecutors, we see firsthand how consumer fraud can infringe on our sense of security, shatter our trust, and endanger our well-being.”
“The consequences of today’s scams are more than just financial. These frauds may affect our health and the health of those around us. Unfortunately, every one of us is at risk of being duped by one of these scams,” Lacey added.
Meanwhile, authorities are working to increase the number of tests available in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has endorsed testing by laboratories using a “high-volume” system manufactured by Swiss health care company Roche, according to CBSN Los Angeles.