This coronavirus pandemic has created several (now) everyday terms such as social distancing, physical distancing, self-quarantine, etc.
Here’s another: Contact tracing.
The phrase is process of identifying people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, instructing them to quarantine and monitoring their symptoms daily, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
“Contact tracers are usually hired by a state’s department of public health. They work with an infected person to get the names and phone numbers for everyone that infected person came in close contact with while the possibly infectious,” Colleen Tressler, consumer education specialist for the FTC, wrote in a blog on the commission’s website.
Tressler said those names and phone numbers are often kept in an online system and people who had contact with someone infected with COVID-19 may first get a text message from the health department, telling them they’ll get a call from a specific number.
Worth noting, according to the FTC: the contact tracer will not ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number.
They will not ask for money, bank info or credit card number.
In some states, tracers ask if the contact would like to enroll in a text message program, which sends daily health and safety reminders until the 14-day quarantine ends.
But just like any other crisis, scammers are out in full force, taking advantage of the situation.
These criminals are savvy — and are also sending out spam text messages that contain a link.
Simply put: don’t click on the link. If you do it will will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information.
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 several other 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.
For more information, see How to Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages.
To get information on the latest scams the FTC is seeing, sign up for the commission’s consumer alerts.
Virginia is hiring contact tracers. Here’s some information.
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