Fake contact tracing part of 'rapidly evolving' coronavirus fraud, U.S. DOJ warns

Few people wear masks as they walk on the beach pier during the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Oceanside, California, June 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

(Reuters) - Scammers are posing as COVID-19 contact tracers as a way to steal personal information, three major U.S. government agencies said on Tuesday, describing “rapidly evolving” fraud related to the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Trade Commission warned that fake contact tracers were asking for money and trying to collect social security numbers, bank and credit card information from individuals.

Contact-tracing is a disease control tactic in which authorities identify and test people who were recently near a virus carrier, based on the patient’s interactions.

“COVID-19 fraud is rapidly evolving. 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,” said HHS Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary Cantrell.

The DoJ said it would continue to prosecute those committing such fraud.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Henderson and Shounak Dasgupta