Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins is warning Mainers to be on alert for criminals impersonating public health officials in an effort to gain access to their credit card information.
This scam starts with a phone call alleging that the recipient has come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message recommends that the person self-isolate and get tested. The scammer then seeks to gain the individual’s credit card number, claiming that this information is needed to send a COVID-19 test kit. The scammer may also insist that the individual will be penalized if they do not agree to provide this information immediately.
This scam is the latest iteration of coronavirus-related phone, text, and email scams seeking to trick or frighten consumers into sharing personally identifiable information and financial details in exchange for a stimulus check, COVID-19 vaccine, or fake government grant.
“As Chairman of the Aging Committee, one of my top priorities is putting a stop to scams that seek to rob Americans of their personal information and hard-earned money,” said Senator Collins. “It is reprehensible that these criminals are looking to take advantage of this crisis for their own gain. I urge the public to be wary of phone calls, texts, or emails from unknown sources that demand immediate action.”
“Contact tracing is an essential part of Maine CDC’s work to limit potential spread of the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. “But contact tracers will only ask questions specific to potential exposure and will not seek information about bank accounts, credit cards, Social Security numbers, or anything unrelated to potential virus exposure.”
The Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips to protect yourself from contact tracing scams:
· Real contact tracers won’t ask you for money and demand payment by any means, including gift card, money transfer, or cryptocurrency.
· Contact tracing does not require your bank account, credit card number, immigration status, or Social Security number.
· Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
You can also find more information about COVID-19 contact tracing on the Maine CDC’s website at: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/infectious-disease/epi/airborne/coronavirus/contact-tracing.shtml. If you receive a fraudulent call, text message, or email, you can report it to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
Since Senator Collins became a leader of the Aging Committee, first as Ranking Member and then as Chairman, the Aging Committee has held 25 hearings to examine scams affecting older Americans. The Committee also releases an annual Fraud Book outlining the top 10 scams reported to the Committee’s Fraud Hotline.