Better Business Bureau warns of phony ‘contact tracers’

Mobile APP contact tracing adopted by national Governments to stop Covid-19 pandemic

(BBB news release) The Better Business Bureau is warning citizens about scammers who are impersonating COVID-19 Public health officials are rolling out COVID-19 contact tracing programs to help slow the spread of the disease by informing people who have had contact with someone who has tested positive. Of course, scammers are finding nefarious ways to use these efforts for their personal gain.

How the Scam Works

You receive an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media
messenger. The message explains that you’ve come into contact with
someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message instructs you to self-isolate and provides a link for more information. Alarmed, you are tempted to click and get more details. But don’t fall for it! These links can contain malware that downloads to your device.

Another version of this scam involves a robocall claiming to be part of
“contact and tracing efforts.” Again, the call informs you that you’ve
been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. After
electing to speak to a representative, the “contact tracer” asks 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 (PII) and/or financial accounts. While contact tracers do
normally reach out by phone, be sure to hang up if the caller doesn’t
meet the guidelines described below.

How to tell a real contact tracer from a scam:

  • Contact tracers will ask you to confirm your identity, but not for financial information. Tracers will ask you to confirm your name, address, and date of birth. In most cases, they will already have this information on file. They will also ask about your 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 their name and identifying themself as calling from the department of health or another official team.
  • 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. If they provide a person’s name, you know it’s a scam.
  • Think the link may be real? Double check the URL. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it pretends to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov (for the United States) or .ca (for Canada). When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.

For More Information

This article from the Miami Herald has more information about the contact tracing scam.

To learn more about scams related to the coronavirus and how to protect yourself from them, see these BBB Tips on COVID-19. To read up on some 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.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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