Scammers are posing as Contact Tracers to download malware onto your device with one click or take you to a phishing page that tricks you into inputting personal data or a password.
What is a Contact Tracer?
State health departments have created programs staffed by trained volunteers to "trace" people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, and advise all those who may have been exposed to quarantine strictly at home and monitor for possible symptoms. For this to work, contact tracers need to get in touch with potentially impacted people, and many states are sending text alerts to call contact-tracing hotlines.
The Contact Tracer Scam
From phishing and texting attacks to unemployment fraud, attackers now have a new way to scam people. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning that these fraudsters have designed scams around state contact-tracing initiatives.
Scammers are already adept at blasting out misleading text messages and emails, and now contact-tracing communications have become a compelling communication to commit fraud.
Scammers are pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works by sending text messages. The texts are spam messages that ask the recipient to click a link.
The deceptive text messages can include links that either download malware onto mobile devices with one click or take you to a phishing page that tricks you into inputting personal data or a password. One sample text message provided by the FTC reads: "Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for Covid-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested." It then prompts the target to learn more by tapping a URL. The malicious texts could also direct you to call a fake hotline to get your personal information.
The FTC shares some suggestions you can use to spot a scam. For example, real health department contact tracers will never ask you for your Social Security number, credit card details, or other financial information. And they won't ask you to send money anywhere or participate in any type of transaction.
They also offer some precautions you can take to minimize your risk:
- Make sure you have enabled two-factor authentication set up on as many of your online accounts as possible. That way even if a hacker gets one of your passwords they'll still have a tough time actually getting in.
- Keep up with software and operating system updates to plug as many holes as possible against malware. And look into filters and blocking services if you're really being inundated with junk calls and texts.
- Don’t click on any links if you are unsure if the text is legitimate.
- Don’t give anyone your personal information including social security numbers, and banking and credit card information.
If you receive a text message from a “contact tracer” and you are unsure if it is legitimate, contact your local health department. Unfortunately, along with dealing with this pandemic, you have to be diligent and aware when you receive any COVID-related text messages and emails.
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