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LASD warns of COVID-19 contact tracing scams

LASD warns of COVID-19 contact tracing scams

In addition to fake emails and phishing scams related to the COVID-19 emergency, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department want you to be aware of a contact tracing text scam that could allow thieves to get access to your personal and financial information.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, instructing them to quarantine and monitoring their symptoms daily.

California Connected is our state’s contact tracing program. Health workers will speak with an infected person to get the names and phone numbers for everyone that infected person came in close contact with while possibly infectious. Those names and phone numbers are often kept in an online system. People who had contact with someone infected with COVID-19 may first get a text message from the health department, telling them they’ll get a call from a specific number. Learn more about the program at https://covid19.ca.gov/contact-tracing/.

If you get a phone call, remember that legitimate contact tracers will NEVER ask you for:

• Money
• Your Social Security number
• Your bank account or credit card number

Anyone who requests these things is a scammer.

If you get a text message, a legitimate message should only inform you that a health worker will be calling. If it includes a link to click, don’t take the bait! Ignore and delete it immediately. Clicking on an unknown link will download software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information.

Check for ways you can filter unwanted text messages or stop them before they reach you, such as:

• Your phone may have an option to filter and block messages from unknown senders or spam.
• Your wireless provider may have a tool or service that lets you block texts messages.
• Some call-blocking apps also let you block unwanted text messages.

Watch out for other COVID-19 scams still circulating, such as:

Fake charities. Scammers play on your good intentions by using names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. Be sure to do your research and donate directly to legitimate charities. Pay safely by credit card, never by gift card or wire transfer.

Phishing emails. These emails often appear to be from familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. Some have been fake emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with information on the virus. Others can pretend to be from a government agency, in view of the talk of economic stimulus checks, and will ask for your private information to send you money. Be assured legitimate government agencies will never do that. These emails are all dangerous because they contain links that if clicked on, can install software or other programs that can steal your private information or lock you out of your data.

Counterfeit treatments or equipment. Be cautious of anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. Watch for counterfeit products such as sanitizing products and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns and gloves. More information on unapproved or counterfeit PPE can be found at www.cdc.gov/niosh.

Protect your computer and electronic devices by:
• Keeping your software up to date and use security software
• Regularly backing up your data
• Setting your cellphone to update software automatically
• Using multi-factor authentication for your accounts

Please follow these tips from the FBI to protect yourself:
• Never open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
• Never provide your username, password, date of birth, Social Security number, financial data or other personal information in response to an email or robocall.
• Always verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
• Check for misspellings or wrong domains within a link (for example, an address that should end in a “.gov” ends in “.com” instead). Don’t trust the link as typed in the email as it can look correct but will actually link to a fraudulent site. Use your mouse to hover over the link (don’t click). The real link will display so you can check it.

Please regularly check our main page for Lakewood-specific coronavirus information and resources at www.lakewoodcity.org/COVID19.