Don’t fall for scammers posing as health workers during the pandemic

Published: Jul. 23, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Contact tracers with El Paso County Public Health are working around the clock to get ahold of people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.

Before the pandemic hit, the health department said it only had eight people who worked for the communicable disease team and could contact trace. Contact tracing is when health officials reach out to people who test positive for coronavirus and follow up with anyone they may have been in contact with while they were contagious.

Now, there are 34 people employed by Public Health who can contact trace -- not counting several trained volunteers who also make calls.

“Our goal with contact tracing is to understand where individuals with COVID-19 might have been while they were infectious. When we’re learning this information from our cases, we’re able to reach out proactively and let individuals know if they need to be quarantined or potentially worried about developing COVID over a certain time period,” said Kimberly Pattison, the program manager for communicable disease with the health department.

She said contact tracers are working 7 days a week and usually call people between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

“Anytime we’re getting a report of the new case, we’re working right away,” Pattison said. “Our goal is to get in touch with those individuals within 24 hours of receiving that report.”

According to the health department, contact tracers have called about 1,000 people in El Paso County since July 4th.

“Because there are so many cases of individuals with COVID-19 that don’t feel sick, it’s important for us to let them know when they might be infectious before they begin to show any symptoms,” Pattison said. “So if we’re able to let those individuals know that they could be developing the virus, they’re able to take extra steps to stay home and keep themselves away from others during the time when they would be passing on the virus.”

But some scammers are taking advantage of the important role of contact tracers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, some people are pretending to be contact tracers to steal your identity, money or both.

“A contact tracer will never ask you any information about banking information, financial information, those types of sensitive information,” Pattison said. “We’re only going to be concerned with what’s relevant for who might have been exposed to the virus.”

Here’s what you can expect a legitimate contact tracer to ask you:

  • Information about your symptoms
  • Previous medical conditions
  • Email address
  • Names and contact information for people you’ve been around

If someone calls you, and you’re not sure whether they’re a real contact tracer or a scammer -- get their name. Then hang up, and call El Paso County Public Health at 719-578-3220 to double check they work for the health department.

To avoid scams, many people don’t answer the phone if it’s a number they don’t recognize. During this time, the health department says it’s important for people to listen to their voicemail in case it’s an important message from a contact tracer.

“It would be very helpful for us if people would call that number back right away,” Pattison said.

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