The Northeast Colorado Health Department (NCHD) sounded an alarm Tuesday about people taking advantage of uncertainty over COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to make a fast buck.
“We have heard from the public that scammers are calling people saying they are from the health department, trying to get people’s private financial information and/or requesting money for their test results,” said Trish McClain, Director of NCHD. “This is very concerning and I want to make sure the public is aware that we would never ask for money, their financial information or social security information.”
Contact tracing is the process health officials use to contact people who have tested positive or been exposed to someone with COVID-19, instructing them to quarantine or isolate and monitor their symptoms daily. It’s a tool to help identify, and prevent, the spread of the disease.
“Contact tracing plays a vital role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Scammers, pretending to be investigators, are taking advantage of that system, damaging our reputation and the trust of our community,” Mike Burnett, NCHD ‘s Response Coordination Officer, said.
According to the NCHD release, scammers claiming to be employees of the health department are texting and calling residents and asking for personal information or money. Officials want residents to know that in the six-county health district served by NCHD — Logan, Morgan, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma counties — case investigation and contact tracing is conducted only by employees of the health department. The full staff directory is available at https://www.nchd.org/contact.
Case investigations start with a phone call to patients who have recently been tested positive for COVID-19. The investigator will discuss who they may have been interacting with recently, help with isolation plans for themselves and resources they may need while in quarantine. Individual information is not shared and all information collected during interviews is used only to track the spread of the disease. Interviewers operate under strict confidentiality rules and collected data is protected in secure systems. Investigators will need names and phone numbers for those people who are identified as close contacts while the patient was possibly infectious, but they will never ask for personal information like immigration status, marital status, Social Security, bank account, or credit card information. Anyone who does, is a scammer.
These scams are both texting spam messages that ask recipients to click a link, or by a phone call where the person asks for money to pay for testing. NCHD is not currently contacting anyone by text messaging. Legitimate calls received from authorized tracers will not ask for payment or personal financial information over the phone. If you are unsure about a text or phone call, please contact NCHD at one of your local offices:
- Logan County, 700 Columbine Street, Sterling, CO 80751, Phone: (970) 522-3741
- Morgan County, 228 W. Railroad Avenue, Fort Morgan, CO 80701, Phone: (970) 867-4918, Fax: (970) 867-0878
- Phillips County, 127 E. Denver Street, Suite C, Holyoke, CO 80734, Phone: (970) 854-2717
- Sedgwick County, 118 W. 3rd Street, Julesburg, CO 80737, Phone: (970) 474-2619
- Washington County, 482 Adams Avenue, Akron, CO 80720, Phone: (970) 345-6562
- Yuma County, 529 N. Albany Street, Suite 1120, Yuma, CO 80759, Phone: (970) 848-3811
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