FTC warns of scammers posing as contact tracers

OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – The Federal Trade Commission is warning people about scammers posing as contact tracers. They send text messages telling recipients they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
The FTC says those text messages can have links that could put malware on your phone. Scammers could use that to steal your information.
Right now, the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department will only call you about possible exposure to COVID-19 and for check-ins throughout quarantine.
“Your initial contact will in fact be someone who works here or the Health Department. It’ll either be one of our epidemiologists or it might be one of our public health nurses, but in fact, it will be a person,” Eddie Withers, acute disease epidemiologist with OCCHD, said. “I think it is important for you to talk to someone initially just to kind of be able to talk about what’s happening, what’s expected to happen.”
Real contact tracers only need your name, phone number and some demographic information.

“The focus will really just be what your symptoms were, and when you were in contact with the other person,” Aaron Wendelboe, interim State Epidemiologist, said. “We will ask information about exposure to COVID, but we don’t need [your] Social Security number, and we certainly don’t need any financial information.”

To protect yourself from text message scams, the FTC recommends blocking messages from unknown senders and spam. You should also back up data on your phone in case it gets infected.
Health officials add all the information they gather is confidential.

“That information is kept within the organization. It’s only shared with those individuals who need to know, and it’s important to participate because if you don’t, it hampers our ability to control the spread of the disease,” Withers said.

“I just ask that Oklahomans recognize that we are just focusing on trying to stop transmission,” Wendelboe said.”The more everyone cooperates, we don’t have to shut down the economy and we don’t have these large ramifications.”
The State Health Department says they’re working on a system to communicate with people through text, but right now, phone calls are still the primary method of communication.

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