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How to detect a contact-tracing scam

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Health officials locally and across the country have been rolling out contact-tracing programs in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

But the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people to be on the lookout for identity thieves trying to use the pandemic to steal your personal information.

This type of scam has been popping up recently in Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts, according to the BBB, and it can come in the form of an email, text, or message on social media saying you’ve come into contact with someone who is COVID-19-positive.

BBB Scam Tracker: Find or Report a Scam »

The scammer instructs you to self-isolate and provides a link for additional information.

Paula Fleming, the BBB’s local chief marketing and sales officer, warns not to click that link.

“This is unfortunately then downloading malware into your device, your laptop, your Chromebook, your phone,” she explained. “Malware has been around for a long time. It’s software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer or a computer network.”

Fleming said legitimate contact tracers will usually call you and would never ask for financial information.

“Tracers will call, ask for your name, your address, and your date of birth,” she said. “In most cases, they’ll already have this information on file, but in some cases, we’ve been informed that they do not.”

Fleming also said a real contact tracer would never state the identity of the person who’s tested positive.

“If they provide you a friend’s name or a family member’s name – that’s a huge red flag,” Fleming said.

Another version of the scam is through a robocall, according to Fleming.

“The call informs you that you’ve been exposed to someone,” she said. “After electing to speak to a representative, who is also known as the contact tracer, asks you to verify personal information.”

Fleming said the call will begin with basic questions about your name and date of birth, but quickly moves to questions about your banking information. If that happens to you, Fleming advises to simply hang up.

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

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