Scammers target COVID-19 tracing efforts to steal personal information
Attorney General Josh Kaul: Legitimate contact tracers will not ask for Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is warning residents about potential scammers posing as contact tracers to steal personal information from unsuspecting Wisconsinites.
Contact tracers are hired by the state of Wisconsin or local health departments to identify people who have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, which helps track transmission.
Before giving anyone information for contact tracing, Kaul said in a June 22 news release, make sure they are legitimate and not a scammer trying to commit identity theft. Authorized contact tracers will not ask for money or personal information like a Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers. They will not disclose the identity of the person who tested positive for COVID-19. And they should be able to provide up-to-date information on testing locations and protocol.
Contact tracers authorized to work in Wisconsin will contact a resident by telephone and identify themselves with a first and last name, and the name of the government entity they are calling from, generally the Department of Health Services or a local health department.
Legitimate contact tracers will say they are contacting you about an urgent public health matter and would like to speak with you to provide further information and share guidance. They will first inform you that you may have been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. They may then ask for information such as:
How you are feeling,
Where you went and who you’ve been in contact with in the last few weeks,
Contact information for those you’ve been in contact with recently,
Your occupation and work status,
Contact information and contact preferences.
“Contact tracing is one of our best tools to identify where COVID-19 is and stop its spread. It’s unconscionable that some are trying to take advantage of Wisconsinites during this pandemic,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “However, knowing what questions our contact tracers will and won’t ask can give you the peace of mind that it’s really us on the line. Please do not ever give your Social Security number, bank account or credit card information to someone purporting to be a contact tracer.”
Scammers pretending to be contact tracers may also send text or email messages asking residents to click a link. These are phishing scams that help a scammer gain access to a person’s computer, financial information and personal information.
If you receive a communication that you’re not sure about, visit the Department of Health Services website at dhs.wisconsin.gov to contact the department. Or contact the Douglas County Health Department directly at 715-395-1304 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you have been contacted by someone you think was not a legitimate contact tracer, alert the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection at 800-422-7128 or DATCPHotline@Wisconsin.gov .