Amidst all of the coronavirus news, contact tracing has been a popular topic of discussion.
Contact tracing is a vital part of slowing the spread of COVID-19 by identifying who patients have come in contact with and instructing those individuals to quarantine and monitor daily symptoms so they do not expose anyone new.
According to the CDC, contact tracing is a, “Core disease control measure employed by local and state health department personnel for decades, [and] is a key strategy for preventing further spread of COVID-19.”
However, scammers realized tracers are contacting people by phone and are trying to take advantage of the situation.
When used appropriately, contact tracing is an important tool to help slow the spread of #Covid19.
However, scammers are now using phony contact tracing to try to commit fraud.
Real contact tracers will never ask for personal info like your Social Security # or financial info. pic.twitter.com/F5LCCKJ5us
— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) June 8, 2020
Typically, COVID-19 patients provide the contact tracer with names and phone numbers of people they have been in close contact with while infectious. The contract tracer, hired by the state, will then reach out to the individuals informing them of a potential call.
According to the FTC, “The tracer who calls will not ask for personal information, like a Social Security number. At the end of the call, some states ask if the contact would like to enroll in a text message program, which sends daily health and safety reminders until the 14-day quarantine ends. But tracers won’t ask you for money or information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.”
Scammers are now pretending to be contact tracers and sending misleading text messages to people. But, there are key differences between spam text messages and contact tracers messages. For example, spam texts often ask you to click links, and health department messages will only say that they will be calling. Scammers often promise free prizes, great deals, or claim there has been a problem with a payment of some sort; all to get you to click the link they have sent.
The FTC warns: “Don’t take the bait. Clicking on the link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information. Ignore and delete these scam messages.
There are several ways you can filter unwanted text messages or stop them before they reach you.
- Your phone may have an option to filter and block messages from unknown senders or spam.
- Your wireless provider may have a tool or service that lets you block texts messages.
- Some call-blocking apps also let you block unwanted text messages.
Here are several other steps you can take to protect yourself from text scammers.
- Protect your online accounts by using multi-factor authentication. It requires two or more credentials to log in to your account, which makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
- Enable auto updates for the operating systems on your electronic devices. Make sure your apps also auto-update so you get the latest security patches that can protect from malware.
- Back up the data on your devices regularly, so you won’t lose valuable information if a device gets malware or ransomware.”
Do not be afraid if you receive a message saying you will be called, but be sure not to click any links from numbers you do not have.
Read more information about spam text messages here.