Scammers disguised as COVID-19 contact tracers targeting southern Indiana residents

Scammers disguised as COVID-19 contact tracers targeting southern Indiana residents

JENNINGS COUNTY, Ind. (WAVE) - Contact tracing can be a way to keep a community safe from COVID-19, but some are now preying on other’s good intentions as the public is getting familiar with the new concept.

Jennings County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy David Turner said the southern Indiana department has received a number of reports that scammers have disguised themselves as contact tracers.

“We’ve seen quite a few cases of this so far, people calling in just concerned with it,” Turner said.

The interaction usually starts with a call or text and can lead to an extensive interview.

“One lady that made a complaint with us said it was almost a two hour phone call,” Turner said. “So, I’m pretty sure they’re pretty good at extracting a lot of information in two hours.”

Turner said scam artists have posed as the sheriff’s office demanding people participate in contact tracing.

“At no time in Jennings County, and I assume in Indiana, the sheriff’s office would be involved in contact tracing or forcing anyone to do that without some sort of court order,” Turner said. “The sheriff’s office is just not going to call and tell someone to contact the local health department, the state health department or CDC.”

There are some other red flags too.

“I don’t think at any time the health department is going to be concerned with your social security numbers or bank account numbers,” he added. “What I recommend to people is actually don’t ask for a call back number. Ask for what agency they’re with, look that number up yourself, or if not, contact your local law enforcement.”

That’s the advice Louisville Metro Health officials are sharing as well. Karen Handmaker, the public health worker overseeing contact tracing in Louisville, said Tuesday the health department hasn’t yet seen similar scams, but she encouraged people to reach out if they do.

“Please, if you have any questions at all or concerns, please call Lou Health,” Handmaker said in a press briefing. “The help line phones can help you with any questions related to any calls you might get that sound off. We really want to help everybody.”

Handmaker added a legitimate call will usually display a Louisville health department caller ID.

The Better Business Bureau has more resources on how to avoid a contact tracing scam.

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