As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, contract tracers have become an important tool in fighting the spread of the virus. However, it’s key to make sure the call comes from a reputable source.
According to officials with the Andrew County Health Department, there are people pretending to be contact tracers as a scam to gain people’s financial and insurance information.
Andrew Hoffman, Andrew County Health Department administrator, said community members have received a phone call from someone who identified themselves as a contact tracer and then proceeded to ask for financial information. The department quickly notified the sheriff’s office and put out social media messages to inform the public.
Hoffman said contact tracers never will ask for financial or insurance information. They will only ask basic questions, such as date of birth and addresses.
“The caller is going to clearly identify themselves by their name, first and last name typically, and the health department that they’re working with or are calling from,” Hoffman said. “They’re never going to ask for any kind of financial information.”
This goes for any unprompted calls asking for personal information.
“If you receive a phone call and they are asking for any kind of financial information — banking account numbers, credit card account numbers, any of that kind of stuff — they need to go ahead and just hang up the phone, because if they didn’t initiate that call there is a good chance that it is someone trying to get their financial information,” Hoffman said.
Those who are unsure about the trustworthiness of someone claiming to be a contact tracer should take down the person’s name and call the health department he or she claims to work for to verify it. But departments ask that people allow their contact tracers to identify themselves.
However, staff at the St. Joseph Health Department have experienced the opposite issue of their Andrew County counterparts. Residents have hung up on contact tracers because they believe the phone call is a scam.
“We have had people hang up on our contact tracers and accuse them of running a scam,” a news release from the St. Joseph Health Department said. “We ask that people not immediately hang up but to give us a moment to confirm who we are. If the recipient of our call wants further reassurance, they can call the administrative office of the health department at 271-4636 and give the name of the contact tracer for confirmation.”
Contact tracing is an important tactic to combat COVID-19, which is why health departments ask that people allow tracers to identify themselves. However, calls from people asking for financial or insurance information are most likely a scam, and those receiving such calls should notify local authorities.