Beware of coronavirus contact tracing scams, N.J. officials warn. Thousands of fraud cases reported.

Posted May 20, 2020

New Jersey officials warned Wednesday that thousands of scams have been reported involving phony coronavirus contact tracers seeking to get information from residents with Gov. Phil Murphy saying those criminals have a “special place in hell.”

Officials warned residents to never give personal information like Social Security numbers and bank information if they are contacted by somebody who claims to be a contact tracer. Tracers don’t need that information.

The warning came as a rash of complaints were made of people receiving text messages saying they came in contact with someone who had COVID-19. The text messages ask people to follow links and then try and obtain private information, officials said.

“The fraud that we’re seeing started actually all the way in April,” said Jared Maples, the director of the state’s Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. He said fraud reports have come from all of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Contact tracers don’t text people who they believe came in contact with someone with the virus and private information should never be given to them, officials said.

A legitimate contact tracing effort usually includes a call to educate people and tell them if they are at risk and what they should be on the lookout for, officials said.

“Typically what would happen … is that we’ll begin with a call usually,” Dr. Christina Tan, the state epidemiologist, said during the state’s daily coronavirus briefing in Trenton. “Then there’s an opportunity for the contact tracer … to provide information of what exactly is COVID … and what are the cautions that you need to take.”

Officials gave the scam warning after they announced New Jersey’s death toll from COVID-19 climbed Wednesday to 10,747 with 150,399 total cases since the start of the outbreak. The latest update includes 168 new deaths and 1,670 new cases.

Officials announced earlier this month they are looking to hire 1,000 new contact tracers to supplement the 800 to 900 people who currently do the work throughout the state.

Murphy has said a beefed-up contact tracing force is needed to recover from the outbreak and lift restrictions. Health officials have said as many as 7,000 tracers could be needed.

Over the last few weeks, Murphy has gradually peeled back the restrictions he ordered in late March to fight the virus. He has allowed state and county parks to reopen with social-distancing restrictions, permitted nonessential retail businesses to offer curbside pickup, and said beaches, boardwalks, and lakes can be open this summer with guidelines.

He announced auto dealerships and bicycle shops will once again be allowed to conduct in-person sales starting Wednesday and said earlier this week he hopes restaurants could be able to serve diners outdoors and nonessential businesses could let shoppers in stores within “a matter of weeks.”

On Monday, the governor outlined a broader multi-stage reopening plan and said the state is currently in Stage 1. He didn’t provide hard dates for when stages 2 (additional activities allowed, with restrictions) and 3 (most activities allowed, with restrictions) will happen. But he said Stage 2 could happen within weeks if the downward coronavirus trends continue.

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment