Contact tracing scam: How to avoid losing money

Scammers call as contact tracers to steal financial and personal information
COVID-19 SCAM

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) –

One scam features people who pretend to be from county health departments.

People may be dealing with enough when it comes to COVID-19, Social distancing, cancelations, lost jobs, rent still due, and yet there are people trying to steal a person’s money without even taking their wallet.

“Scammers will follow anything that’s new or in the news,” said Lisa Schiller, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.

The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission are aware of this scam. Contact tracers are people who warn someone if they have been close to a person with COVID-19. It helps stop the spread of the virus.

“We’ve been seeing in the last couple of months the hiring of contact tracers by the state department of public health,” Schiller said. “This is going on throughout the entire country.”

Here’s how this scam works. A scammer will do something that gives them away. A person¬†will get a text, email, or message on Facebook.

The Better Business Bureau said the message explains that the individual has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message instructs them to self-isolate and provides a link for more information.

Don’t click on that link because personal information could be exposed when malware downloads to the device. Another version of this is a call asking you to provide financial information.

Real contact tracers will never ask for financial info. Contact tracers will say who they are and where they are calling from.

They will never reveal the identity of the person who tested positive. That’s a direct violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws anyway so a person can bet their bottom dollar it’s a scam.

However, a contact tracer may send a text or call when they perform contact tracing for true COVID-19 investigations.

“Sometimes they may send a text message first to your phone letting you know that they are with … La Crosse Department of Public Health and ‘we will be calling you soon.’ That may be happening and if that is happening that is legitimate,” Schiller said.

Officials with the La Crosse County Health Department recommend to call them or a local health department to confirm if the person calling is actually trying to help.

“This is what we see all the time with anything, unfortunately,” Schiller said.

La Crosse County resident with questions regarding contact tracing can call 608-785-9872.