It was only a matter of time before scammers realized yet another opportunity provided by COVID-19—contact tracing scams. I’m a strong believer in contact tracing as a way to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but I also know scammers will use any trick they can to steal your information. Here are a few tips to help you safely maneuver through these very stressful times.
What is contact tracing?
Contract tracing is used to identify people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracing can be done manually or via an app that runs on a cellphone. Once someone has been identified as having come in contact with an infected person, they are instructed to quarantine and monitor their symptoms daily.
Is it safe to cooperate?
Contact tracing does not involve collecting personal information such as social security numbers, birthdates, or immigration status. A legitimate contract tracer also will not be asking for financial information or any kind of payment. What this means is that the legitimate contact tracer won’t jeopardize your personal information or financial security.
Tips to avoid the scams
Tip #1: Like any other scam, this one happens via email, text message, and/or telephone. An email or text message scam will include a link, which will either download malware or take you to a fake website that will ask for personal information. Do not click that link.
Tip #2: Gone are the days when phone scams were dying out due to their cost. Now, scammers run phone banks, spoof telephone numbers, and train their operators. This makes dealing with a phone version of this scam much more difficult. However, there’s a clear dividing line. If someone asks for your social security number or other sensitive information, even if they say it’s voluntary, assume it’s a scam and hang up.
Tip #3: If you’re feeling stressed or pressured, find someone you can talk to for support. Let’s face it, people under a lot of stress do stupid things. We make bad choices.
If you need to talk to someone, you can get help at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. Learn more about stress and coping during the COVID-19 outbreak at CDC.gov.