RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — With COVID-19 cases reaching record numbers in North Carolina, contact tracing is becoming more common as people get notified they have come into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
But, law enforcement says that increase in contact tracing has also resulted in an explosion of scams using contact tracing as a way to steal your identity and money.
Contact tracers sit in a room using computers and a phone to track down those who might be infected and it’s that anonymity that criminals are depending on to defraud people.
Here’s how one of the schemes work, according to the North Carolina Attorney General.
“Folks will reach out to you and say they are a contact tracer to let you know you’ve been in touch with somebody, but they ask for your health insurance information, your bank account or ask for your social security number,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “These are scammers who are not trying to protect your health, but trying to steal your money or information”
Texts on your phone are another way criminals can scam people.
If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 you may get a text from a state health department telling you they’ll contact you later using a specific phone number.
But, scammers take that a step further.
The Federal Trade Commission says criminals will send you a text that looks saying something like “you’ve been in contact with an infected person,” but they add something else: a link at the bottom.
It’s that link that’s dangerous. If you click it, it’ll download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information.
Real contact trackers don’t send texts with links and they also never ask for upfront payments.
Kevin Anderson, the head of the North Carolina Attorney General’s consumer protection division, said a scammer will call and say “Oh, you’ve been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and to get the process rolling we’re going you need to make an immediate payment via wire transfer, gift card, or some other immediate form of payment.”
Anderson said whenever anyone wants an advance cash payment, “It’s a huge red flag.”
Contact tracers don’t need your money, bank account or other personal information.
Also, real contact trackers will be able to give you information about testing locations as well as how to make an appointment.
If you’ve been the victim of a COVID-19 scam, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721. Or you can use this link.
The Office Of The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more advice on how to identify and report COVID-19 healthcare-related scams.
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