Contact tracing scammers prey on COVID-19 fears


COLORADO SPRINGS – Scammers are targeting people, during the coronavirus pandemic, who are fearful of contracting COVID-19.

In El Paso County, many restaurants track information on dine-in customers, such as names and phone numbers, so they can be contacted in the event of an outbreak.

Contact Tracing Scam

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Those individuals are then instructed to quarantine and monitor their symptoms daily. Contact tracers are hired by a state’s or county’s department of public health. Health departments say the process plays a vital role in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

However, scammers have been caught impersonating contact tracers, and have called and texted people, asking for personal information, such as their social security number, credit card number, and bank account information.

“We just need the minimal information to do disease control within our county,” said Haley Zachary, Lead Communicable Disease Epidemiologist for El Paso County Public Health.

Some victims have received a text on their phone instructing them to click a link.

Don’t take the bait. Clicking on the link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information. Ignore and delete these scam messages. 

There are several ways you can filter unwanted text messages or stop them before they reach you:

  • Your phone may have an option to filter and block messages from unknown senders or spam.
  • Your wireless provider may have a tool or service that lets you block texts messages.
  • Some call-blocking apps also let you block unwanted text messages.

Here are additional steps you can take to protect yourself from text scammers:

  • Protect your online accounts by using multi-factor authentication. It requires two or more credentials to log in to your account, which makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.
  • Enable auto-updates for the operating systems on your electronic devices. Make sure your apps also auto-update so you get the latest security patches that can protect from malware.
  • Back up the data on your devices regularly, so you won’t lose valuable information if a device gets malware or ransomware.

“If we identify that we have the right phone but maybe we aren’t getting the right response we will utilize text messaging but we will never use that as a tool to collect information,” Zachary explained.

Contact tracers will not ask for money or any financial information. The public health department wants to confirm name, date of birth, address, phone number, and if you’re experiencing any symptoms.

“If people are concerned the caller might be a scam, I would recommend hanging up and looking up the health departments number and calling the health department and they can get you in touch with who is doing the investigation to ensure that it is indeed the health department,” Zachary added.

According to the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, their first attempt at contact will always be a phone call with a brief automated message asking for a callback. If that is unsuccessful, they say they may text, but would never ask for personal information.

Pueblo County had reported an outbreak at Panda Express on June 2. The department says there have been no new outbreaks at restaurants in Pueblo County.

El Paso County had reported an outbreak at McDonald’s on May 18.

New restaurant outbreaks in El Paso County include:

  • Carniceria Leonela located at 3736 E Pikes Peak Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80909 has 6 confirmed cases among the staff.
  • Fuzzy’s Taco Shop located at 1375 Interquest Pkwy, Colorado Springs, CO 80920 has 2 confirmed cases among staff.

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