As public health officials begin to roll out COVID-19 contact-tracing programs to help slow the spread of the virus, scammers are finding ways to use these efforts for their personal gain, according to the Better Business Bureau.
According to a recent BBB alert, the scam targets people by sending an unsolicited message via text, email or social media. It explains that the recipient has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message provides a link for more information.
Since the email causes the recipient to be alarmed, there might be a tendency to click the link; don’t do it. The link contains malware that downloads to the recipient’s device.
Another version of this scam involves a robocall claiming to be part of “contact and tracing efforts.” It informs the recipient that he or she has been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. After electing to speak to a representative, the “contact tracer” will ask you to verify personal information.
This starts with questions about your full name and date of birth, but can quickly move to personally identifiable information, financial accounts or both.
While contact tracers do reach out by phone, hang up if the caller doesn’t meet the following guidelines:
» Contact tracers will ask you to confirm your identity, but not financial information. Tracers will ask you to confirm your name, address, date of birth, current health, medical history, and recent travels. They will not ask for any government ID numbers or bank account details.
» Contact tracers will identify themselves. The call should start with the tracer providing his or her name and identifying the agency he or she works with.
» Contact tracing is normally done by phone call. Be extra wary of social media messages or texts.
» A real contact tracer will never reveal the identity of the person who tested positive.
» Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov.
To learn more about scams related to the coronavirus and general tips for avoiding scams, visit bbb.org/avoidscams.
If you’ve been the victim of a coronavirus related scam, please report it on BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others to stay alert and avoid similar scams.