Both the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the state’s Department of Health have issued a warning after reports of scams related to contact tracing of COVID-19.
Contact tracing is a public health tool used to slow the spread of infectious disease. Health workers will essentially contact people who may have been exposed to an infectious disease, like COVID-19. Those who have been exposed are then asked to watch for symptoms and take preventive actions, which includes isolation.
Now, contact tracing is initially done over the phone, but officials say there have been recent reports of scammers impersonating public health workers via text message.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, scammers are sending text messages that inform the recipient that they’ve had contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and to click a link for more information.
Depending on the attack, if the recipient clicks on the link, they could be prompted to download unwanted software that can access their phone’s data, or be directed to a site that could trick them into revealing their personal information, including their social security number and banking information.
Commerce Commissioner Steve Kelley says that as testing expands and more people test positive for COVID-19, increased contact tracing efforts will give scammers more and more opportunity to attempt to defraud Minnesotans.
MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm says health officials only text someone after they’ve contacted the person over the phone.
The FTC recommends seeing if your phone has an option to filter or block messages from unknown senders or spam. Wireless providers may also have a tool or service to do this and definitely do not click on the link if you do get the text message.
More information is available on the FTC’s website.