Here’s how to avoid unwittingly giving away sensitive information in the interest of public health.
6 Signs of a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Scam
Few things instill fear nowadays like a message from a contact tracer informing you that someone you’ve been in contact with has tested positive for COVID-19.
Contact tracers, who typically work or volunteer for state, county or city health departments, must contact each person who has come in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. If a contact tracer gets in touch, it’s your duty to answer questions about who you’ve been in close contact with to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
But how can you know whether a message received from someone claiming to be a contract tracer is legit – or bait from a fraudster preying on pandemic fears to phish for sensitive personal information?
Click or swipe for 6 red flags of a possible contact tracing scam.
1. Unsolicited text messages
Imagine checking your phone to find an alarming message notifying you that you’ve been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19. You might be so worried that you immediately click on the link provided for “more information.”
Don’t do that. Links from scammers posing as contact tracers may download malware to your phone. However, some health departments may initially send a text telling you to expect a contact tracer call from a certain number, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“Clicking on the link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information,” warns the FTC. “Ignore and delete these scam messages.”
Find out: COVID-19 Scams and How to Avoid Them
2. Suspicious emails or social media messages
Contract tracing is normally performed by phone, so beware of emails or social media messages that say you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and instructs you to click on a link for more information.
“Be extra wary of social media messages or texts,” warns the BBB.
3. Asking for your Social Security number
While your Social Security number may be how a bank or student loan provider identifies you when you call, a legitimate contact tracer won’t ask you to provide that sensitive information, which can be used to steal your identity or apply for credit under your name.
A legitimate contract tracer calling from the health department or a private company will never ask for your social security number, says the FTC.
4. Requesting financial information
A real contact tracer won’t ask you to pay or send money or provide bank account information or credit card numbers. “Anyone who does is a scammer,” says the FTC.
If you receive a recorded “robocall” claiming the caller is part of “contact and tracing efforts” and informing you that you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, end the call fast.
Robocalls typically ask you to stay on the line for a representative, who then asks you to verify your full name and date of birth. Soon the call shifts to questions about sensitive personal information that could be used to steal your identity.
“Tracers will ask you to confirm your name, address, and date of birth. In most cases, they will already have this information on file,” says the BBB. The tracer will ask about your current health, medical history, and recent travels but will never ask you to provide government ID numbers or bank account details.
6. Disclosing the name of the person who tested positive
A legitimate contract tracer will never tell you the name of the person who tested positive. “If they provide a person’s name, you know it’s a scam,” says the BBB.
This article by Deb Hipp was originally published on Debt.com.
Published by Debt.com, LLC