In order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus our county health departments are conducting contract tracing to track down and isolate infected people, and to alert people who may have been exposed. Contact tracers do their work by contacting individuals and asking them questions designed to help determine who has been exposed and who may be infected.
This creates an opportunity for imposters to try to get our personal information for identity theft.
We have a duty to the community to cooperate with legitimate contact tracers, and our health departments have the authority to legally order us to cooperate. So if you are contacted by someone claiming to be a coronovirus contact tracer you should carefully determine if the person asking for our personal information is legitimate or an imposter.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says legitimate contact tracers may call, email, text, or visit your home to collect information. They may ask you for:
- your name and address
- health information
- the names of places and people you have visited
Scammers will ask you to do more. Here are some things to do to protect yourself from fake contact tracers.
- Don’t pay a contact tracer. Anyone who says you need to pay is a scammer, plain and simple.
- Don’t give your Social Security number or financial information. There’s no reason for a legit contact tracer to need your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.
- Don’t share your immigration status. Legit contact tracers don’t need — and won’t ask for — this information.
- Don’t click on links or download anything sent from a contact tracer. Real tracers will only send you texts or emails that say they’ll be calling you — not ask you to click or download anything.
What should you do if you think you’re dealing with a fake contact tracer? Check with your state health department to see if they have a way to make sure the person contacting you is a real contact tracer. Otherwise, hang up, close the door, or don’t respond to, click on, or download anything that may be in an email or text. Then, report it to your state and tell the FTC about it at FTC.gov/complaint.
Any West Virginia senior age 60 or over can call WV Senior Legal Aid and talk to a lawyer about contact tracing or other legal issues. 1.800.229.5068.