Camden, N.J. – As New Jersey moves toward reopening, scammers are looking for new ways to target people. One way is through impersonating contact tracers hired by the state.
“Months of relative isolation has led many to let their guard down, now that some of the rules and regulations are becoming more relaxed.” said Acting Camden County Prosecutor Jill S. Mayer. “Scammers will look to take advantage of this opportunity, and they’re coming up with unique ways to try and steal your money.”
In May, Governor Phil Murphy announced the state is seeking to hire up to 7000 contact tracers to find out who might have been exposed to the coronavirus. Contact tracers will then call those people and gather information about where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with.
State health officials said there have been reports of people receiving calls or texts from someone claiming to be a contact tracer who asks for information like a social security number or bank account number. This information is not needed by legitimate contact tracers, who typically begin a call by identifying who they are and what department they’re working with.
Detectives said if you’re contacted by someone claiming to be a contact tracer, they should have an understanding of the disease and how it spreads, provide information on what symptoms to look for and when to seek medical attention, and gather information about who you’ve been in contact with and where you you’ve been. If an alleged contact tracer asks for personal identifying information or cannot answer basic information about the virus and link you to testing sites, they might not be legitimate.
There are several ways you can filter unwanted calls/text messages or stop them before they reach you. Your phone may have an option to filter and block calls/messages from unknown senders or spam. Your wireless provider may have a tool or service that lets you block suspicious calls/texts messages or some apps also let you block unwanted calls/text messages.
If you suspect you’ve been contacted by someone posing as a contact tracer, don’t provide any personal identifying information and hang up. You can report the incident to your local police department or file a complaint through the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs online or by calling 973-504-6240.