Across the country, states have implemented contact tracing programs to help track the spread of the coronavirus. Contact tracing is the process of finding individuals who have come in contact with a person who has COVID-19, learning about their movements and asking them to quarantine or monitor their symptoms.

Contact tracers are hired by their state and work directly with infected people to identify who they may have exposed to the virus. It’s a good system for tracking the coronavirus and limiting its spread.

But with widespread unsolicited communications, scammers have the opportunity to impersonate contact tracers with malicious intent. Here’s how to avoid coronavirus contact tracer scams.

1. Don’t Provide Your Social Security Number or Financial Info

Depending on your state, contact tracers may call, email, send a text message or visit your home. But they will only request a limited amount of information to verify your identity and perform their jobs; this information may include:

  • Name, residential address and birth date
  • Health-related information
  • People and places you have recently visited to track potential spread of the virus

Contact tracers will never ask you for your Social Security number, bank account information or credit card numbers. If someone requests that information, you should immediately cut off all communications.

2. Don’t Pay Anyone

Contact tracers are employed by the government and will not solicit money, gifts or payments from their contacts. They are not providing medical services to you, and there is no reason to get money or insurance involved. If someone claiming to be a contact tracer asks you for payment, do not engage with them.

3. Don’t Click Links or Download Attachments

Scammers may use links that direct you to a fake website that captures your information, and attachments may contain malware or ransomware to infect your computer or hold information hostage. While contact tracers may send texts or emails during their work, they will not require you to follow links or download attachments.

As a rule, don’t click any links or download any attachments from sources you have not personally verified.

4. Report Scams to the Authorities

If you suspect you are dealing with a fake contact tracer, you should contact your state’s health department to find out if you can verify the contact tracer’s identity. Any scams you encounter should be reported to your state or the Federal Trade Commission.