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Posted Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Contract Tracers DO NOT Ask for Personal Information — Be Wary of Clicking Links

Morris County Prosecutor Fredric M. Knapp and Acting Chief of Investigations Christoph Kimker warn residents that criminals are using the COVID-19 emergency to carry out a new scam, posing as Contact Tracers to steal money or personal information.

Contact tracing involves a bit of investigative health work. Trained health professionals or volunteers will interview people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and to try to determine who may have recently been in contact with them. They then contact those people who have been exposed and can advise them to quarantine to help prevent spreading the disease.

An example of a human contact tracing scam. A text message that says, Someone who came in contact with you has tested positive.

The Morris County Board of Freeholders has initiated an aggressive contact tracing program in Morris County, headed by health professionals and  Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

However, Prosecutor Knapp warns that a recent criminal trend has identified criminal scammers pretending to be contact tracers. The scammers send messages to potential victims saying they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19/coronavirus and need to click a link to learn more.

When that link is clicked, malicious software is downloaded onto a person’s smartphone or other device, giving hackers access to their target’s private information.

Legitimate contact tracers only send text messages to let a person know that they will be calling. These messages DO NOT include a link. Messages that include a link to click should be viewed as illegitimate and deleted immediately.

Contract tracers also DO NOT ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account number.

“Criminals are taking advantage of these unprecedented circumstances and the public trust to steal from our residents. Please do not become a victim of these
scammers,” said Prosecutor Knapp.

The Prosecutor’s Office also has warned about some other scams, some connected to  COVID-19:

BAIL BOND – A scammer will call a potential victim and say her or his grandchild has been arrested. The caller may or may not provide the grandchild’s name. In some cases, a person comes on the phone pretending to be the grandchild as proof of being arrested.

The caller will ask the victim to post/give a sum of money for the grandchild to be released from jail.

During a recent incident in Roxbury, the scammer asked for the victim’s home address to pick up the money. This type of scam is particularly dangerous, as the criminal will attempt to collect the money in person,  directly from the victim.

Please be aware that scammers may give the victim instructions on what to say to a bank teller if they ask why cash is being withdrawn. They also may instruct the victim to act upset and angry or to tell the bank employee that it is none of their business.

IRS SCAM – A scammer will call a potential victim and say they owe the government money and face being arrested if they do not pay. To avoid being arrested, the victim must satisfy the debt by way of a MoneyGram or gift cards.

Please be aware that the IRS will never call and attempt to settle a tax debt via MoneyGram or gift card.

COVID-19: Prosecutor Warns of Criminals Posing as Contact Tracers

STIMULUS CHECKS – The United States Postal Inspection Service advises that scammers are calling and/or emailing individuals claiming to be from the Treasury Department, and offering expedited payments or assistance with obtaining an Economic Impact Payment.

According to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, residents do not have to pay taxes or processing fees to obtain a relief stimulus payment. Residents are advised that if they receive a call asking for personal information or for fees to obtain a stimulus check, do not provide any personal information and do not send money.

If you are contacted by a scammer, please notify your local police department or the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office Financial Crimes Unit at 973-285-6200.

Residents also can report the theft of stimulus checks from the mail to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at or 1-800-ASK-USPS.

Inquiries should be directed to Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at [email protected] or by phone at 973-829-8159.