Phone scams are nothing new in our society. There are countless stories of people being contacted about phony IRS debt, unpaid tickets, or relatives in jail in another country who need money immediately. We can add a new one to the list, contact tracing scams that are designed to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conversation may go something like this:
“Good morning, according to our system, you are likely to have been in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. This means that you now need to self-isolate for 7 days and take a COVID-19 test.”
“OK. Can you tell me who that person was?”
“I’m not able to tell you that. That is confidential information.”
“Right. Um... so ....”
“But you do need to be tested within the next 72 hours. So, can I just get the best mailing address so that we can send a kit to you?”
“Ok (gives address)”
“Thank you—and I just need to take a payment card so that we can finalize this and send the kit to you.”
“Sorry—a payment card? I thought this was all free?”
“No—I’m afraid not. There is a one-off fee of $50 for the kit and test results. Could you read off the long card number for me, please, when you’re ready?”
“No—that’s not right.”
“I’m afraid it is. Can you give me the card number please—this is very important, and there are penalties for not complying.”
According to the FCC, “Many states are using text messages for their initial contact tracing outreach. Scam text messages often include links to websites that request Social Security numbers or insurance information. Some even attempt to collect bogus payments for testing. Clicking these links can also download malware onto a mobile device, allowing scammers to access your personal data.” Never click on any links that you are unsure of.
Legitimate tracers will never ask for your insurance information, bank account information, credit card numbers, social security numbers or any form of payment. If they do, hang up and block the number. In Maryland, if contact tracing agents are trying to reach you, the name MD COVID will show up on your caller id along with the phone number 240.466.4488. Continue to be vigilant and remember to not give any personal information out over the phone.