OSU Extension in Pittsburg County welcomes Lockwood

Rachel Lockwood 

As the novel coronavirus continues to make its way back and forth across the country, scams related to COVID-19 continue to multiply. Fake contact tracing and fake special interest fundraising accounts have been added to the growing list of ways to take advantage of people.

Oklahoma has been seeing a spike in the number of cases of the virus as businesses have reopened across the state.

One of the provisions of the federal CARES Act allows state health departments to hire what are called ‘contact tracers’ in an attempt to help slow the transmission of the virus. We have about 600 contact tracers in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Attorney General defines contact tracing as the process of identifying individuals who may have encountered an infected person and the subsequent collection of further information about potential exposures.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in the past, scammers are already coming out posing as contact tracers. Because contact tracers will be around for the foreseeable future, it’s important for the public to know what the contract tracers can and cannot do.

A true contact tracer will contact the person who has tested positive and ask about recent social contacts at work, travel and special events, as well as interactions with family and roommates. The tracer will also gather information regarding the infected person’s health and symptoms, and in return, provide information on how to quarantine, socially distance and test further.

A true tracer WILL NOT ask for any information that can be used for identity theft, such as social security numbers, bank account/routing numbers, insurance, credit card numbers, Medicare/Medicaid numbers, the ability to pay for testing/treatment or similar details.

The first clue is that a true tracer is NOT allowed to give out information about the identities of other people. If you receive a call and the caller names the person you were exposed to, this is a clear sign the caller isn’t a true contact tracer. These scammers also are using text messaging and email as means of contacting unsuspecting people.

A typical scam goes something like this: An online email suggests that someone who came in contact with you has tested positive for COVID-19, so you should self-isolate and get tested. Then the trap beckons: “Click here for more information.” DO NOT click the link. It could download harmful malware onto your device that allows the scammer to access person and financial information that can be used to steal money and your identity.

Another variation on the scam involves a smartphone app that provides information about the infection rate in the local area. The app promises an alert if you’re close to a person who is a positive carrier of COVID-19.

If you see an advertisement for an app or receive information via email, don’t download it. Any app you want to download on your phone should be done through your app store. Recently, as announced by the attorney general’s office, tech companies and web developers have sought to create tracing applications in an effort to help public health officials and individuals identify if they have come in proximity to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. To better protect your personal information, consider the following:

Verify every app labeled or marketed related to contract tracing is affiliated with a municipal, county, state, or federal public health authority, or a hospital or university in the United States that is working with such public health authorities.

Remove any app that cannot be verified consistent with above.

Those who receive what appear to be fraudulent email messages should simply delete them.

To be even safer, strongly consider taking the following precautions:

Use multifactor authentication which requires two or more credentials to login to your account.

Enable auto-updates for your operating system.

Back up data on personal devices regularly to avoid losing valuable information in case of malware or ransomware.

Other new scams people are now dealing with are false charity groups or individuals asking for donations for people hurt by riots or the economic shutdown. These may show up as a GoFundMe, Crowdfunding or other account which makes it easy to click and donate. Do your homework and research the group or person raising the money before clicking to donate. Even if the information on the site fits with your beliefs and values, the person who set it up could be a scammer looking to make a fast buck. It’s important to do your research.

Rachel Lockwood is the Family Consumer Science Extension Educator with Pittsburg County OSU Cooperative Extension Service. For more information related to this topic or related FCS programs contact Rachel at 918-423-4120, email Rachel.lockwood@okstate.edu or on Pittsburg County OSU Website http://oces.okstate.edu/pittsburg/ or find Pittsburg County OSU Extension Center or Pittsburg County OHCE on Facebook.

Oklahoma State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, State and Local governments cooperating. Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, national origin, disability, protected veteran status, or any other legally protected status and is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Recommended for you