As society slowly emerges from nationwide lockdowns, fraudsters ramp up their game and have found a way to exploit various state-wide contact tracing initiatives. The goal of these legitimate programs is to continue slowing the spread of Covid-19 via "tracing" and contacting several potentially impacted individuals in order to advise them to self isolate at home and monitor for possible symptoms. Several states send text alerts with an advisory notice to call contact tracing hotlines.
However, scammers are taking advantage of this process by pretending to be contact tracers, sending SMS messages laced with malicious spam via a link and crossing their fingers for the moment an unwitting victim clicks on it.
Such malicious text messages may include:
- links to download malware to the device.
- links to a phishing page tricking the victim into entering personal information or a password.
- messages directing the recipient to call a fake hotline that will continue to elicit personal information from the victim.
- a message similar to "Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for Covid-19. Please call XXX-XXX-XXXX."
As these programs have been stood up swiftly to keep up with the pandemic, it is very difficult for individuals to discern which resources are legitimate.
There are basic precautions to note though. The FTC strongly reminds individuals a legitimate program or service would never ask for your Social Security Number, credit card information, or request payment in any way shape or form. Stay vigilant!
The Covid-19 pandemic has created prime conditions for scams. From phishing attacks to unemployment fraud, attackers have put new, more exploitative twists on their classic hustles. And now the Federal Trade Commission is warning that those fraudsters have designed scams around state contact-tracing initiatives.