The Better Business Bureau is warning of an increasing number of scams involving individuals claiming to be local authorities involved in contract tracing of COVID–19.
According to BBB officials in St. Louis, scammers are using two primary methods in an effort to trick individuals into divulging vital information.
The first involves a consumer receiving an unsolicited text message, email or social media message informing them that they have been exposed to COVID–19, instructing them to self-isolate, and providing a link with more information.
“The link, in reality, may download malware to their device,” BBB officials noted.
The second involves a robocall in which the consumer is informed of possible COVID–19 exposure.
When the consumer elects to speak to a representative, the caller will ask the consumer to verify person information.
“In May 2020, an Amarillo, Texas consumer reported receiving a robocall about ‘contact and tracing effort’ that asked the consumer to verify person information, including date of birth and financial information,” BBB officials noted, adding that caller ended the call without providing any information.
BBB officials noted that a real contact call by phone or text message will always self-identify as a representative of a local health department or local government.
“While the contact tracer must confirm personal information such as name, address and date of birth, they will never inquire about financial information or ask for any government ID numbers or bank account details,” BBB officials stated, adding additional questions will revolve around current health, medical history, and recent travels.
In addition, legitimate health and government representatives will never reveal the name of the person who tested positive for COVID–19 that prompted the contact.
BBB officials also offered the following tips for avoiding phishing scams.
- Be careful with unsolicited calls, emails, texts or social media messages asking for your banking information. Scammers posing as contact tracers may insist this is personal information they need to verify before proceeding, but real, government-employed contact tracers will never ask for this.
- Double-check the URL in any unsolicited link. Scammers often buy official-looking URLs to use in their cons. Be careful that the link is really what it claims to be. If the message alleges to come from the local government, make sure the URL ends in .gov. When in doubt, perform a separate internet search for the website.
- Know your sender. Don’t click, download, or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is likely an attempt to gain access to your personal information or install malware on your computer.
- Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake messages. Always be wary of unsolicited messages that don’t contain your name, last digits of your account number or other personalizing information.
More information is available online at www.bbb.org.