Federal agencies warn of coronavirus fraud schemes

Multiple federal agencies have come together to alert the public about COVID-19 fraud schemes.

The Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Trade Commission partnered to keep the public informed of fraudulent schemes to steal money and sensitive information through contact tracing scams, according to the DOJ.

Contact tracing is a process used to identify those who are or have been in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19 and instruct them to quarantine and monitor their symptoms, the department said. The scams often come through tests or phone calls requesting money, Social Security numbers or bank account or credit card numbers.

COVID-19 fraud is “rapidly evolving,” Gary Cantrell, Health and Human Services deputy inspector general, said in a statement Tuesday.

“Operating contact tracing schemes is just one method that criminals use to target unsuspecting patients nationwide, attempting to steal their personal information and commit healthcare fraud,” he said. “We continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and bring to justice those who exploit the ongoing public health crisis in order to enrich themselves.”

Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said it can be good to talk to contact tracers, but he warned people not to give away any personal information over the phone or via text or email because it could be a scam.

“Remember, real contact tracers will never ask for a Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card number, and will never ask for payment,” the department said in a statement Tuesday. “For specifics about contact tracing in your area, check with your state government.”

Contact Alexis Ford at aford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexisdford on Twitter.