Many cities, counties, and states across the US are participating in contact tracing to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing involves finding people who have or had an infectious disease and informing those who encountered them to prevent further spread. To be effective, contact tracing is heavily dependent on making phone calls and sending text messages to friends, neighbors and colleagues that may have been exposed.  And it’s no surprise that scammers have found a way to take advantage of this process.

Legitimate contact tracing is run through your health department. The main purposes for calling are to notify those who may have been exposed to monitor their health, assist in finding a testing center, and asking those to self-quarantine. Their staff may ask you to verify information such as your date of birth and address, especially if you are the COVID-19 positive patient. They may also ask you the address of a testing center you visited if you were recently tested. Listed below is what they will not ask you for:

  • Credit/debit card information
  • Bank account information
  • Social security number
  • Immigration status
  • Money in any form

Scam contact tracing calls often begin with a warning that you have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you must self-isolate and take a test. They will make this sound urgent by claiming you must take the test within 24-72 hours. Next, they will ask for your mailing address and a payment card. The caller may even claim there are penalties for not complying. The threatening tone of the call and the request for payment raises a red flag and identifies this call as a scam.

Some additional signs of contact tracing scams:

  • Callers offer a contact tracing job and ask for your SSN
  • Contact tracers send an email or text with a link
  • Asking for a fee for testing, grocery deliveries, or medicine deliveries

It is important to answer when a contact tracer is calling you to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but by knowing the signs of a scam, it is easier to trust contact tracers and avoid becoming their next victim.

In addition, consumers can protect themselves by leveraging telecom provider robocall detection solutions powered by TNS Call Guardian.  In these trying times, vigilance is even more important than before; be smart and stay safe.

Jim Tyrrell is Senior Director of Product Marketing at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Wholesale Telecoms solutions.