Avoid COVID-19 Contact Tracing Scams

Virginians are encouraged to respond to legitimate contact tracers

As we continue to fight the coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is employing contact tracers to notify individuals who have been exposed to known cases of COVID-19. Contact tracers offer information, encourage people to monitor themselves for symptoms and refer those who develop symptoms for medical evaluation and testing to help contain the spread in Virginia. 

Case investigations and contact tracing are trusted public health tools used to prevent further spread of contagious diseases. Contact tracing is not new; public health organizations use it every day for other contagious diseases like measles and tuberculosis, and it’s an important part of how Virginia can stop the spread of COVID-19. The(VDH) is expanding their staff of case investigators and contact tracers from a few hundred to nearly 2,000 in response to the pandemic. 

Virginians are encouraged to respond to legitimate contact tracing calls and emails while remaining vigilant against scams. People who had contact with someone infected with COVID-19 may first get a text message from the VDH informing them they’ll get a call from a specific number. Scammers pretending to be contact tracers are taking advantage of how the process works and sending text messages. Unlike a legitimate text message from a health department, which only wants to let you know they’ll be calling, the message from scammers includes a link to click. Don’t take the bait. Clicking on the link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information. Ignore and delete these scam messages. 

If a VDH contact tracer calls you, they will ask for your date of birth, address, race and ethnicity, as well as potential symptoms and any recent known exposure to COVID-19. They may also request an email address to provide additional resources. VDH will never ask for your social security number or citizenship/immigration status; information collected during interviews is used only by public health agencies. The information is protected in a secure system and interviewers operate under strict confidentiality rules. Contact tracing is free; interviewers will not ask for money, bank account details or credit card numbers.  

Contact tracing saves lives by preventing the spread of COVID-19. For details on the Virginia Department of Health’s Contact Tracing practices, visit their website. You can also visit the Federal Trade Commission website for more information on contact tracing scams and ways to protect yourself.