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New COVID scam uses contact tracing claims to scare targets

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

 There are reports circulating on social media of a new COVID-19 related scam targeting those who might not be sure how contact tracing works. The way the scam works is that the target receives a phone call purporting to be from the local health department. The person on the phone tells them that someone they have been in contact with has tested positive for COVID-19. If the person who receives the call asks who it was, they are told they cannot provide that information, because of HIPAA regulations. 

So far, it sounds fairly legitimate. But what happens next is not. After telling you the person has reported having been in contact with you, they will ask for a credit card number to pay for a COVID-19 self-test kit to be sent to your home. If you are reluctant to provide that information they may tell you there are penalties for refusing to comply. 

Carter County Health Department Director Jeff Barker said this is absolutely not how COVID-19 testing or contact tracing works. There is no home test he is aware of and at no time do they charge for testing. 

“First we get the positive lab report,” Barker explained when discussing how contacting the patient and later contact tracing works. “Then we contact the positive case. We identify ourselves and that we are with the Carter County Health Department. We ask some travel history questions. Then get some of their medical information. After that we get their direct contact list. We also explain their quarantine expectations.” 

The next step, after contacting the person who tests positive, is the contact tracing. This is where they contact people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. But, he emphasized, they do not ask for any payment. 

“With direct contacts we do the same intro and then explain they were a direct contact of a COVID positive case. We get their birthday, address, and check for signs and symptoms. We explain their isolation expectations and leave them our contact information, normally the office number and cell number for after hours contact. We at no time ask for any bank or credit card information. Most all tests are free and there is no mail to home test that we are aware of at this time.” 

If you do get contacted by someone who asks for your credit or debit card information, he said, they are not associated with the Carter County Health Department or any legitimate state, county, or municipal health department. 

If you are contacted by someone attempting such a scam you may report them to the Kentucky Attorney General’s office by making note of the phone number they called you from, if you have caller ID, or you may contact your local authorities. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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