We are currently living in unprecedented times, and this provides ample opportunity for scammers to come up with new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting people. These scams are often targeted at the elderly, and it is essential that we are aware of the types of scams these individuals will try. 

Right now, there are two major scams that are happening: contact tracing scams and COVID-19 testing scams.

What Is Contact Tracing?

Contact tracing is the process of identifying and contacting people who have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Contact tracers will work with someone who is positive to collect the names and numbers of anyone they have been in close contact with while infectious. 

Spotting the Scam

Contact tracers might begin by sending you a text message. They also might reach out with a phone call, but there are several things they will NOT do. Contact tracers:

Will NOT ask for money – Contract tracers will never ask you for payment, whether that is through cash, card, gift card, or any other form of payment.

Do NOT need your bank account or credit card number – They do not need this information. A good rule of thumb is to never give this information to anyone who contacts you and asks for it.

Do NOT need your social security number – They will also not need your social security number, even the last 4-digits. 

Do NOT need your Medicare number – Contract tracers will never ask for your Medicare number.

Immigration status does NOT matter – If contract tracers are asking for this information, they are not legitimate, and this is a scam.

Will NOT send links through email or text – Contract tracers will not send you any links through text or email. Clicking on these links could download malware to your computer or phone.

Testing Sites

Some scammers are contacting recipients of medicare and offering free COVID-19 testing or testing supplies for them. 

What to Look Out For

Social Media – Be wary of advertisements on social media for COVID-19 tests or supplies. Make sure that any appointments you make are at actual locations

Do NOT open links – Do NOT respond to or open links sent to you through text messages from unknown sources

Medicare and Medicaid will NOT call asking for your number – Medicare and Medicaid will NOT call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 testing or products. If you receive a call from them, this is likely a scam.

How Do I Make Sure a Testing Site is Legit?

The best thing you can do is get a referral from your doctor for a COVID-19 test. You can also contact your local police or sheriff’s office to see if the testing site is legitimate. 

Tips for Avoiding Other Scams

People who take advantage of others during a crisis will continue to try different ways to scam you. To avoid being taken advantage of, follow the following tips:

  • Do not give your bank account or credit card information to people who call and ask you for it.
  • Do not click on ANY links in a text message.
  • Do not offer any personal information to someone that calls you. Government entities will not call you and ask for personal information.

Scammers will pressure you to make a payment or provide detailed information quickly, making it seem like you need to submit it right now or face consequences. If they are doing this, get off the phone. You can do your own research about the legitimacy of the call after you are off the phone. Do NOT feel like you must make a decision on the spot about providing information. Get off the phone. Call a family member or friend and talk to them about the call. Get an outsider’s perspective. The most important thing to remember is that you do not need to decide anything     during that phone call. 

The Federal Communications Commission offers a scam glossary that you can look at to see the many types of scams that individuals will try. 

What to Do If A Scammer Contacts You

Once you realize that this might be a scam, hang up the phone. If a scammer has contacted you or if you suspect that someone has attempted to scam you, report it online with the Office of Inspector General or by calling 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477).

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