The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Aging are warning Pennsylvanians about contact-tracing scams and emphasizing the need to stay alert as COVID-19 remains a community threat.
Scams might include a caller asking for someone’s Social Security number or payment for tracing services — neither of which is ever a component of a contact-tracing inquiry.
“Contact tracing is vital in the state’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, and we want Pennsylvanians to be confident that if they receive a call from a contact tracer that the call is legitimate,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said.
“If someone is unsure and would like to verify if the caller does in fact work in contact tracing, they can call the PA Department of Health at (877) PA HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) to verify.”
Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 so that they can quarantine and monitor for symptoms.
Across the state, the goal is that within 24 hours of receiving the positive result reported into the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System, a trained public health staff member will conduct an interview for a case investigation with the newly confirmed COVID-19 case, obtaining a list of close contacts they had while infectious.
Then contact tracers, both trained staff and volunteers, reach out to those close contacts to educate, inform, and offer support. Methods used, after the initial phone call, may include phone calls, texts, emails, and mailings.
Contact tracers will not say who exposed the individual in order to keep their information confidential.
Scammers are attempting to take advantage of how this process works by pretending to be contact tracers and trying to get personal information out of victims through phone calls or electronic messages.
A contact tracer may ask:
• For verification of your date of birth, address, and any other phone numbers you may have
• For the date and location of where you were tested if you have already tested positive for COVID-19
A contact tracer will never ask for:
• Your Social Security number, financial or bank account information, or personal details unrelated to your potential exposure to someone with COVID-19
• Personal information through SMS/text message or send you to any website link asking for personal information
• Photographs or videos of any kind
• Money or payment
A contact tracer will never share your information with any local, state, or federal law enforcement agency.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres noted that older adults are at particular risk of being victims of this type of scam.
“Scammers prefer to prey on individuals who may be more trusting, are alone, or may respond out of confusion or fear,” Torres said.
“COVID-19 has isolated many older adults from family and other supports. Therefore, it’s understandable that an older adult, hearing that they may have been exposed, would want to cooperate with any effort to protect themselves or a loved one.
“However,” Torres continued, “it’s important that they stay alert about any contact from anyone identifying themselves as a contact tracer and do not provide personal information until they are sure the individual and information are legitimate.”
Please visit the Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov or call (877) PA HEALTH for more information on the contact-tracing process and contact-tracing frequently asked questions.