A new text scam uses coronavirus-response efforts as cover to pump victims for financial information.
Scammers posing as contact tracers are sending text messages to swipe Social Security, credit card and bank account numbers, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
The racket mimics the real efforts of the contact tracers working to inform the public that they may have been exposed to someone COVID-19-positive. Health departments often send a text message to individuals to let them know they should expect a call from a specific number to talk about their potential exposure. Scammers send similar text messages but often include links that download software that grants them access to a victim’s device, FTC Consumer Education Specialist Colleen Tressler wrote in a blog posted Tuesday.
Legitimate contact tracers do not ask for Social Security numbers, money or payment information. “Anyone who does is a scammer,” Tressler wrote.
FTC suggests preemptively blocking such spam messages by using filtering or blocking options in phone settings or offered by wireless service providers. Some call-blocking apps allow blocking unwanted texts. The agency also suggests using multifactor authentication, making sure software is up to date and backing up device data.
Don’t click the links in suspected spam messages, Tressler wrote. Delete the message or report it to 7726 (SPAM) or ftc.gov/complaint.
The FTC has been alerting the public to many kinds of fraud that prey on the fear and confusion about the coronavirus. The agency previously flagged increased phishing and malware attempts that used the World Health Organization logo, online sellers who claimed to have hard-to-get items then never delivered, fraudulent charities and unapproved products that claim to treat or cure the disease.