Beware Crooked Contact Tracers

If someone claiming to be a contact tracer asks you for money or requests your Social Security number, that’s a red flag.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to communities throughout the U.S., the epidemic of coronavirus-related fraud continues unabated. What to watch out for:

Bogus contact tracers. Contact tracers, who are employed by state health departments, are an important tool in controlling the spread of COVID-19. Legitimate tracers may contact you via phone, e-mail, text or in person to find out names of people you’ve been in contact with and places you’ve visited. But if someone claiming to be a contact tracer asks you for money, or requests your Social Security number or financial information, the individual is a con artist, the Federal Trade Commission says.

Fraudulent contact tracers are also lurking online, says the FTC. Don’t click on a link or download a file sent by someone purporting to be a tracer. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask you to download anything.

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Miracle cures. The FTC recently charged a California-based company with promoting dietary supplements as a cure for COVID-19. The company, Golden Sunrise Nutraceutical, falsely claimed that its supplements had been designated safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration and would eliminate symptoms in three to five days.

The FTC says more than 250 companies have received warning letters from the agency about questionable COVID-19 claims. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no antiviral cure for the disease.

Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.