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Beware of contact tracing scams



There are certain things a real tracer will not ask

Beware of contact tracing scams


Contact tracing is key to monitoring and preventing the spread of COVID-19. One of the mechanisms in place is contact tracing by phone. Scoundrels are taking advantage of the pandemic to ask people personal questions beyond the scope of a valid investigation, reports The Epoch Times.

Government agencies across the country have issued consumer alerts to warn of callers informing their targets that they have come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID and then asking for a credit card or bank account number before divulging details. Officials say no legitimate contact tracer would ever request payment.

Most genuine tracers are calling from health departments to warn of possible contact with COVID, to help people be aware of symptoms, to figure out how to isolate themselves during quarantine, and to determine who else they might have come into contact with.

Contact tracing is a tool that has been effective in slowing the spread of contagion while scientists work on finding drugs or vaccines that work against COVID. Some states are actively making use of the method, which has apparently helped contain the pandemic in New Zealand and Taiwan.

Read more: Contact tracer tells all

A valid contact tracing process often begins with a text message from a health department. Next comes a phone call asking you to verify your address and birthdate. Health security scholar Crystal Watson of Johns Hopkins says this information is important to prevent accidental disclosure of confidential information to the wrong person. If you've tested positive and need to quarantine, the tracer can help you get connected to resources such as delivery of food or medication. They will offer to follow up in the next few days.

Don't respond if you receive any of the following:

  • A text that asks you to click on a link. You could end up downloading malicious software. A valid text will simply notify you about an upcoming phone call.

  • A request for a social security number or payment information.

  • The name of someone who tested positive. Tracers do not disclose such private information.

What to do if you suspect the call is a scam:

Ask for their name and number and say you'll call them back. Look up the phone number of your local health department. Call for confirmation that you are being contacted because of a possible contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Contact tracing is not a new technique. It has been used during measles breakouts to prevent its spread. The eradication of smallpox, for example, was achieved not by universal immunization, but by exhaustive contact tracing to find all infected persons. This was followed by isolation of infected individuals and immunization of the surrounding community and contacts at-risk of contracting smallpox.

So, if someone contacts you it is important that you verify the contact and also do the follow up. Because you may have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and not know it.

If the health department can't confirm the validity of the call, don't call back. Instead, report the incident to an agency such as the state attorney general's office.



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