With the COVID-19 situation, there are increasing efforts by fraudsters to try to take advantage of your fear and collect personal information that can be used for identity and financial theft. The hot ticket right now – contact tracing. The FTC is seeing an increase in scam efforts surrounding this issue & is warning the public to stay alert and do not share your information.
How does it work?
Here’s how it works: Scammers will send you a text message with a generic boilerplate spiel about how you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The message will include a link where you can supposedly learn more or sign up for testing.
How to spot a scam tracer?
A legitimate contact tracer will never ask for personal identifying information or ask you to click a link to another site. The only thing you might see is asking if you are ok to receive more text messages.
Below are red flags of a scam tracer (these red flags apply to most scams):
- Poor English: Many scam operations are based outside the U.S. Even if they have an American area code, it’s possible to spoof it easily. Watch out for unusual spelling and grammar, especially when it claims to come from a government source.
- A link: Real contact tracing texts are notifications of an upcoming call. They will not include links for you to sign up or provide information. Ignore any texts that include a link.
- Requests for personal data: The only information you’ll be asked during a legitimate contact tracing session is who you’ve been in contact with, and potentially their phone numbers. Even then, this kind of information would be asked during the call, not upfront in a text. Ignore any texts that request personal information about you or others.
- Alarmist language: Some of these texts will use frightening or sensationalized language to get you to act urgently. If you get scared enough to click the link they include, you’re already in trouble. Real contact tracers will work with you professionally and refrain from alarming you.
- Requests for money: Anything asking you to submit a payment of some kind can be disregarded. Contact tracing programs shouldn’t cost you anything to be a part of. Any requests for payments in the form of Bitcoin or gift cards are also major red flags.
As new technologies are becoming available, we soon will be able to use contact tracing to help curb the spread of the virus. Don’t let these scam artists scare you — you now have the information to protect yourself.
If you do receive something and you are unsure, take a screenshot and send it to me, I would be happy to look at it.
In this time of shelter in place & 24/7 news cycles, the world can seem very scary. If we work together, share valuable tips, engage with the world with love, we can help to keep each other safe.
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