COLORADO SPRINGS — As cause for concern increases over a rising number of coronavirus cases in some parts of the country, here in southern Colorado public health officials are working to track the virus. But News5 learned people are ignoring contact tracing calls because they're concerned about scams.
Public health officials admit there is still a lot they don't know about COVID-19. Reaching out to people who have been exposed or impacted by the virus is one way they hope to learn more. It's called contact tracing. But robocalls and scam calls are making this process more difficult for everyone.
"Stats show about 58 billion robocalls last year, an average like five to 10 a day," said J. Michael Skiba of CSU Global, also known as "Dr. Fraud."
So when our phones ring with no caller ID, or even a phone number we don't recognize, many of us will ignore it in order to avoid fraudsters and scammers.
But right now, some of these unexpected calls are important. Often contact tracing calls are being ignored. These calls are designed to provide public health officials like El Paso County Public Health Epidemiologist Haley Zachary with important information to track the impact and spread of COVID-19.
"There is a timeliness what we do. The quicker we're able to identify contacts, the quicker we're able to get that message out for prevention," said Zachary.
Experts warn scammers will try to impersonate public health officials.
"They come across as coming from a local county health department, which they can easily Google some names and some phone numbers. So for the average person that looks like a legitimate call coming in. The person actually seems legitimate," said Skiba.
That's why it's important to understand what a legitimate contact tracing call will sound like.
"We'll often ask for the course of your illness medical history and then also the kind of locations and people you've been around for two weeks prior to about 10 days after your illness," said Zachary.
Scam calls are making contact tracing more difficult. Public health officials want to make it clear, they will not pressure you and you can always hang up to verify the call. Slowing down and verifying the call will keep you safe.
"A lot of times people feel like they have a doctor or someone from department of health on the phone and they don't want to question them or who they are talking to. It's like they are embarrassed or something, but it's okay to do that," said Skiba.
Expect a contact tracing call if you've tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19
Public health officials want you to verify their call is legitimate
Health officials will only ask you questions related to tracking COVID-19
Never give up sensitive personal information like a social security number, or financial information on a contact tracing call. If they ask for it, it's likely a scam.
You can always verify these calls are legitimate by taking down the number and contacting your local health department.
To find out more about contact tracing calls and to have your questions answered by public health officials you can contact El Paso County Public Health: (719) 578-3199 or visit https://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/