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Jul 13, 2020

Watch Out For Fraudsters Posing As COVID-19 Contact Tracers

Sponsored Content provided by Suzanne Black - NC Coastal Associate State Director for Advocacy and Community Outreach, AARP

North Carolina law enforcement officials say cooperate only with real health departments and safeguard your sensitive data.
 
WILMINGTON -- Beware of the latest scam that fraudsters are using to take advantage of our anxieties over COVID-19. It is the “contract tracing” scam and answering these calls can be a huge mistake.

According to the AARP Bulletin, here’s how it works. “The incoming call is supposedly from the local health department. The caller sounds professional, though worried. The news is bad: You've spent time with someone who is now sick with COVID-19. Relax, the caller says, and just answer a few questions.

Answering those questions may be your civic duty, or it could be a trap. Consumer advocates say the caller either could be legitimate — or a scammer trying to steal your money or identity.”

Because the problem has invaded the state, the office of the NC Attorney General warns, “While legitimate health officials in North Carolina may call you to complete COVID-19 contact tracing, they will never ask you to provide information like bank account or Social Security numbers.
    

Attorney General Josh Stein said, “Be careful: Fraudulent communications may be in a robocall, personal call, text message or an email. Legitimate contract tracers will text you from 45394 or email you from, [email protected] 

Fraud watch experts say that your best bet if you get contacted by another number or e-mail address is to simply hang up. But the AARP Bulletin highlights that criminals have been able to scam victims by rigging a phone call to make it look as if the call is coming from another number. An app online can spoof the Internal Revenue Service, a health department or any other number.

Last month, Gov. Cooper launched a COVID-19 contact tracing program to help stop the spread of the virus. Contact tracing helps health officials contain COVID-19 by identifying people who may have been exposed to someone with the virus and asking them to stay home. However, scammers are exploiting fears about COVID-19 to try to gain access to people’s personal and financial information.

If you receive a call from someone claiming to be a contact tracer, hang up and call your health department directly to see if the call is legitimate. If you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, contact the Attorney General’s office’s Consumer Protection Division at, ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Readers can learn more about the latest frauds and scams targeting older adults and people in the Cape Fear Region by signing up for free AARP Watch Dog alerts at, www.aarp.org/fraud
 

Suzanne LaFollette-Black has been a gerontologist for the past 35+ years. She is the AARP NC Associate State Director of Advocacy and Community Outreach. Suzanne’s career has been in the aging network as a non-profit nursing home administrator, Area Agency on Aging Director, Executive Director of Moore County Department of Aging. Suzanne is originally from Window Rock, Arizona (Navajo Indian reservation). Suzanne has a BS in Sociology and minor in Zoology/ Music from NAU and graduate studies at USC Ethel Andrus Percy Gerontology program and MASA from University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. She served as the NCAOA (NC Association on Aging, Inc.) President from 2018-2020; Rotary; NCIOM Deaf and Hearing committee; Governor’s Highway Safety Executive Committee; and other community organizations.

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