U.S. Justice Department Warns of Contact Tracing Scams
By Edward A. Meyer*
As part of their Covid-19 reopening plans, city and state health agencies are now using what is known as “contact tracing” as a key tool to slow the spread of Covid-19. Contact tracing involves the identification of people who have come in contact with a person who has tested positive for the Coronavirus. After the contact tracer interviews the person who has tested positive and obtains the names and phone numbers of those people with whom he or she has had recent in-person contact, the contact tracer will then call or text those people on their list, inform them that they have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for Covid-19, and advise them to monitor their health for any of the Covid-19 symptoms and to quarantine themselves voluntarily for a period of time.
The U.S. Justice Department has warned, however, that scammers are now posing as contact to defraud unsuspecting individuals.
As stated in a recent DoJ press release on the issue, “You may receive a call, email, text or visit from a contact tracer, and you should not hesitate to talk with them,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But, beware if they ask you for money, bank account information, your Social Security number, or to click on a link, as those are sure signs of a scam.”
Once these fraudsters obtain a person's Social Security Number, bank account information or get the person to click a link, the fraudster can use that information to either drain a bank account or issue false claims to the government.
No legitimate contact tracer will ever ask for a Social Security Number or bank account information, or even ask for money.
The federal government is actively investigating fraud related to Covid-19 funding, with the U.S. Justice Department announcing separate indictments around the country during July of individuals during July, 2020 for fraud involving Covid-19 programs.
For persons who suspect that they have received a call from a scammer posing as a contact trace related to Covid-19, the Justice Department, Department of Health and Human Service and Federal Trade Commission encourage that they report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or online at www.Justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm or ftc.gov/complaint.
In addition, if a person believes they have given their Social Security Number, bank account information, or clicked a link from a scammer posing as a contact tracer, they should immediately contact their bank and credit card companies and take action to stop unauthorized use of their accounts. Credit monitoring companies can also provide assistance.
This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Please consult with your legal counsel on any questions. Attorney advertising.
Edward A. Meyer, Esq., Member of the State Bar of California
Healthcare Law Partners, LLC
401 East Las Olas Blvd., Suite 1400
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33301 * Available by Appointment
Cell/Text: (530)313-3173 (Primary)
Office: (954)634-2370 (Secondary)