Beware of COVID-19 Contact Tracing Scams

Contact Tracing
Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cybercriminals have found a new way to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic: contact tracing.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have been in contact with someone who tested positive for a virus, such as COVID-19, and instructing them to quarantine themselves while monitoring their symptoms.

In a recent blog post, Colleen Tressler, a consumer education specialist with the Federal Trade Commission, wrote that scammers pretending to be contact tracers are sending text messages to individuals with hyperlinks that if clicked, download malware to the user’s device and give cybercriminals access to personal and financial information.

Security Week reports that hackers are also using bogus contact tracing apps – mostly from unofficial stores and websites that encourage downloads.

Ignore and delete scam messages and if you’re interested in a contact tracing app, download only from official app stores, such as those from Apple and Google

Read the Tressler’s full blog for ways to filter unwanted texts as well as other steps you may take to protect yourself from scammers.

If You're Contacted About COVID-19 Contact Tracing

In North Carolina, if a person has come in contact with someone with COVID-19, they will receive a text message, email or phone call from the COVID-19 Community Team, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Any text messages from the COVID-19 Community Team will come from the number 45394. Emails will come from the email address NC-ARIAS-NoReply@dhhs.nc.gov. If the team reaches out with a phone call, either NC OUTREACH or the local health department number will appear in the caller ID.
  • The COVID-19 Community Team will never ask for a Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers or any other financial information. If you are asked for this information, hang up and report it to your local health department.

What You Will Be Asked

  • If you've come in contact with someone with COVID-19, the COVID-19 Community Team will ask how you're feeling and give you information and support to help slow the spread of the virus and protect others. This sample scenario, available in English and Spanish, takes you through the steps of contract tracing when someone has a positive test for COVID-19.
  • If you have tested positive for COVID-19, the COVID-19 Community Team will call you to provide support you might need to protect yourself and your family. The Community Team will help identify others you were in contact with and reach out to them. The Team will NEVER share any names or personal information.

All information is confidential, and personal information or names will never be released to anyone. Any information that is shared with the COVID-19 Community Team is a private health record and is strictly confidential. Personal information will not be shared with other government agencies, and the names of individuals and contacts will not be released or shared. 

If You Miss a Call

If a member of the COVID-19 Community Team calls you but can't reach you, they will leave a voicemail. To protect your privacy, the voicemail will not say that the call is about a COVID-19. You will know it is a member of the Community Team calling because they will always do the following when leaving a voicemail:

  • Identify themselves with their first name and the local health department they are calling from.
  • Say “We are contacting you about an urgent public health matter. We would like to speak with you to provide further information and share guidance.”
  • Request that you call your local health department at your earliest convenience and will tell you the local health department phone number.
  • Tell you the local health department website in case you would like to go to the website to verify the phone number.

If You Just Aren't Sure

If you're contacted and you're not sure if the call or message is legitimate, don't ignore it, as contact tracing is important to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Instead, contact your local health department to help guide you.