Contact Tracing Legitimate or a Scam?


You’ve probably been hearing a lot about contact tracing. It’s the process of identifying people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, instructing them to quarantine and monitoring their symptoms daily.

If you’re contacted about possible exposure to the coronavirus, make sure it’s legit. Scammers are masquerading as contact tracers, and it’s smart to verify calls or texts before giving out any information.

 A tracer’s job is to help contain the pandemic by reaching out to people who may be spreading the coronavirus. You could be called because your test was positive. Or perhaps someone who tested positive named you as someone they’d been in contact with, and now you need to be tested.

Scammers read the news, too, and are trying to capitalize on tracing campaigns. They’ve even made calls appear to come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And yet actual tracers can’t do their work if we won’t pick up the phone.

Contact tracers are usually hired by a state’s department of public health. They work with an infected person to get the names and phone numbers for everyone that infected person came in close contact with while the possibly infectious. Those names and phone numbers are often kept in an online system. People who had contact with someone infected with COVID-19 may first get a text message from the health department, telling them they’ll get a call from a specific number. The tracer who calls will not ask for personal information, like a Social Security number. At the end of the call, some states ask if the contact would like to enroll in a text message program, which sends daily health and safety reminders until the 14-day quarantine ends. But tracers won’t ask you for money or information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.