Scammers posing as coronavirus contact tracers jeopardize program

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Scammers pose as coronavirus contact tracers
Contact tracers will never ask you for personal information or for money. Here's how to spot a fake contact tracer.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's one of the greatest hopes for stopping the spread of coronavirus: contact tracing. Health workers across the state are calling people who were exposed to the virus - and directing them to quarantine. But now, officials warn imposters are out there too.

This has posed a dilemma for the contact tracing program. On the one hand, officials are urging all of us to respond when health workers call.

Coronavirus California: Gov. Newsom issues statewide order to wear face coverings in high-risk settings

On the other hand, they're warning us it may be a scammer. So how can you tell the difference?

If someone you know has come down with COVID-19, you may be getting a call from the public health department.

It's called contact tracing -- health workers calling everyone who came in close contact with a COVID-19 patient.

Doctor Darpun Dachdev of San Francisco's public health department says these calls are vital to stopping the spread.

"We want to identify all of the people that may have been in contact with the individual who was contagious. Close contact is defined as coming within six feet for more than 10 minutes. We ask them about whether or not they're experiencing symptoms, link them to testing and inform them to quarantine for 14 days," he says.

The only problem? Bad guys know that too.

COVID-19 risk calculator: Quiz yourself on the safest, most dangerous things you can do as California reopens

Law enforcement officials across the country tell us this scam is just beginning -- imposters out there pretending to be contact tracers.

"I don't want our residents to be victimized, but we do want them to respond to legitimate contact tracers," says Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney.

So how can you tell the difference?

Real contact tracers will tell you you've been exposed, ask about any symptoms, help you get tested for free and tell you to quarantine for two weeks.

They may also offer to deliver groceries and medicine during your quarantine.

Real contact tracers also will be texting you for two weeks to ask about your health and symptoms.

"They never will ask for bank account info or Social Security number or other personal ID info that could give rise to someone losing their money. As soon as the conversation drifts to that, I strongly urge residents to hang up the phone," says Feuer.

Here's what to remember:

  • Contact tracers will never ask you for money.
  • They will never charge fees for testing or any other services.
  • And they will never ask about your immigration status.
  • You should "never" give out your bank account number, Social Security number or any personal data.
  • Never click on a link a scammer may send to your phone or email.

Also remember, scammers may be using fake caller ID to make it look like they are from the health department. If you have doubts, hang up and call the health department directly.


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:

Contact tracing information:


In Contra Costa County we do have a brief online FAQ and also a graphic that helps explain what the contact tracer will do or say when they call. To verify the caller was from Contra Costa County, email us at or call 925-313-6740 -- after selecting a language option, press 1 for COVID-related inquiry, then press 3 if you received a letter or call from us and would like to speak with someone in our Communicable Disease program.


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:


General Health Department:

Public Information & Support: 707-253-4540 (Monday - Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

COVID-19 info page:


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:

Here are numbers San Francisco residents can call to ascertain they're talking to a legitimate contact tracer:

For people who test positive, call 415-554-2830, select option 1, then option 2

For people notified about exposure to COVID-19, call 415-651-3641


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:

Contact tracing information:


The County of Santa Clara works diligently to ensure the privacy and security of our residents and any information provided as a result of COVID-19. We will identify ourselves, explain the purpose of the call and what to expect, and only ask the very minimum information required for your health and to support your needs for isolating and quarantining. We will never ask for your social security number, any financial information (Bank account numbers, bank names, etc)., passwords, city of birth, prior names, past addresses, or your immigration status.


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:

707-784-8988 COVID-19 "warmline"


General Health Department:


COVID-19 info page:

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.

Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here