HUNTERSVILLE, NC — Huntersville police are warning area residents about a coronavirus contract tracing scheme demanding payment for a COVID-19 test after one of its officers received a call from a scammer.
The ruse is part of a growing trend among scammers pretending to be contact tracers to make money off the COVID-19 pandemic, warns the Federal Trade Commission.
“Don’t fall for it and never give out any personal or banking information over the phone,” HPD said, via Facebook.
According to HPD, the officer received a call from a person who said they had been in close proximity to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, and that they needed to self-isolate for seven days and take a test.
The caller would not identify the person who had tested positive, saying that it was confidential information, and insisted the officer needed to be tested within 72 hours.
“I just needed to take a payment card so that we can finalize this and send the kit to you,” the scammer told the officers, according to HPD. The scammer demanded a “one-time” $50 fee, claiming it was for the COVID-19 test kit and test results, and that there were penalties for non-compliance.
Unfortunately, the scam calls mirror some aspects of legitimate contact tracing calls meant to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“A contact tracer might get in touch to discuss results of a test you know you took, or because someone you’ve been in contact with tested positive,” Shameka Walker, FTC attorney for the division of consumer and business education recently said. “Depending on how your state has set up its program, legitimate contact tracers may call, email, text, or visit your home to collect information.”
Legitimate contract tracers may ask you for your name, address, health information and the names of people and places you have visited, Walker said.
Real contact tracers, however, will never ask for bank account information, social security numbers or your immigration status, officials say.
Here are FTC tips for avoiding COVID-19 scammers:
- Learn how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.
- Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. Here’s what you need to know.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.
- Be wary of ads for test kits. Most test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and aren’t necessarily accurate.
- Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
- Real contact tracers won’t ask you for money
- Contact tracing doesn’t require your back account or credit card number.
- Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your social security number.
- Your immigration status doesn’t matter for contact tracing so real tracers won’t ask.
- Do not clink on a link in a text or email.
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