FTC Coronavirus Contact Tracing Scam Text Messages

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Scammers are pretending to be contact tracers, FTC warns

Scammers are using text messages with a link to get access to personal and financial information, the agency said.

May 20, 2020, 10:46 am*

Tech

Andrew Wyrich 

Andrew Wyrich

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning the public about scammers who are pretending to be contact tracers working as part of the coronavirus pandemic response.

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The agency on Tuesday warned that text messages are being sent by scammers that tell recipients they’ve come in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus with a link to malicious software.

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As the FTC explains, the scam comes as contract tracing is becoming a part of the country’s response to the pandemic. Typically, a contact tracer may work with a person who has tested positive to find others who have been in close contact to track the spread of coronavirus.

The tracer will then collect names and numbers of those who’ve been in contact and send a text message from a health agency telling them they’ll get a call from a specific number.

However, the FTC says the scam tries to play off that official system by sending the malicious text message.

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The agency shared an example of the scam message. It reads: “Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested” before including a link.

“Unlike a legitimate text message from a health department, which only wants to let you know they’ll be calling, this message includes a link to click,” Colleen Tressler, a consumer education specialist at the FTC, wrote in a blog post.

The link will download software allowing the scammers to access personal and financial information, the agency said.

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Earlier this month, the FTC said consumers have lost more than $23 million from coronavirus-related scams this year. Their report said nearly 35,000 people reported fraud, identity theft, and other complaints to them since the beginning of this year.

That number jumped this week, with the FTC reporting $35.5 million in losses, with 49,000 people having made coronavirus complaints.

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*First Published: May 20, 2020, 10:42 am