Contact Tracing Scams
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Contact tracing is a public health technique used to identify individuals who have had close contact with someone known to have the virus. Because of the urgent need to notify those that may have been exposed, tracers will often use a variety of methods to contact the individual, including calls and text messages. Many states are using text messages for their initial contact tracing outreach. After the initial text, most legitimate contact tracing work is done over the phone. Legitimate tracers will need to confirm your name, address, and birthday. This is information that they already have – so you won’t need to provide it to them.
What scammers are doing: Scammers are impersonating contact tracers in texts and calls, claiming the contacted party has been exposed to COVID-19 and needs to act quickly. Scam text messages often include links to websites that request Social Security numbers or insurance information. Some even attempt to collect bogus payments for testing. Clicking these links can also download malware onto a mobile device, allowing scammers to access your personal data. In addition to bogus texts, identity thieves are also using robocalls and voicemail call-back tracing scams to steal a target’s money, personal details, and insurance information.
Be aware, legitimate contact tracers will not ask for:
- Insurance information
- Bank account information
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Other types of payment info
If a caller asks for any of the above, hang up and never click on a link in a text message from an unknown sender.
Avoid other Coronavirus scams:
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If the email is purportedly from an official organization, do your due diligence and check it by going to their official website or contact them through their official channels to verify the veracity of the email.
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device and make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- Be alert to “investment opportunities” that claim prevention, detection, or cure Coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.