Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – Health departments across the country have been relying on phone calls to track the spread of the coronavirus. It’s called contact tracing. Health officials reach out to patients who test positive for the virus and get a list of people they’ve been in contact with who might have been exposed.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, some scammers are pretending to be contact tracers to try to steal your personal information.
I spoke with El Paso County Public Health to learn more about what legitimate contact tracers will ask you over the phone, so you don’t give away important information to a scammer. Kimberly Pattison, who’s the program manager for communicable disease at the health department, told me contact tracers will ask you some personal questions.
“They might ask for your email address, for your phone number,” she said. “They’re going to ask for the names and contact information of friends that you’ve been in close contact with. The reason for this is we want to be able to make sure people understand when they’ve had an exposure to COVID-19.”
Pattison said they try to reach people by phone first, but might need your email to send important follow-up information. If someone calls you claiming to be a contact tracer and asks for any of your banking information, that’s a red flag.
“A contact tracer will never ask you any information about banking information, financial information, those types of sensitive information,” Pattison said. “We’re only going to be concerned with what’s relevant for who might have been exposed to the virus.”
If you’re ever in a situation where you’re not sure if the person you’re talking to is a real contact tracer, get that person’s name and hang up. Then, you can call El Paso County Public Health at 719-578-3220 to see if that person actually works for the health department.
Pattison said the health department’s contact tracers are primarily working from home, so if they call you, it might be from a number you don’t recognize. We stress all the time not to pick up unknown numbers, and we want you to keep doing that, but during the pandemic, it’s important to listen to any voicemails or messages that callers leave you.
“Our contact tracers will leave them a message just letting them know that public health is trying to get in touch with them, and it would be very helpful for us if people would call that number back right away so that they can go ahead and participate in that work of disease control,” Pattison said.
The health department said its contact tracers are working seven days a week, so don’t be alarmed if you get a call from them on a weekend.
Remember that scammers will do whatever they can to try to trick you, so please keep your guard up and be careful. You can report scams and fraud to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. They have a consumer hotline at 800-222-4444.
Click here to read the original column on gazette.com.
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