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Wisconsin Attorney General warns of contact tracing scams during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and area health officials are warning against contact tracing scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health officials say contact tracing is essentially a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"It is a case-patient interview with the individual that has been diagnosed as positive, and then there’s the contact notifications for those individuals that have been identified as a close contact,” Portage County Health & Human Services Director Ray Przybelski said.

Close contact can be defined as being within six feet of the infected person for more than 15 minutes, or someone you've been in any sort of physical contact with.

“People that have been exposed to the disease; we want them to know so they can monitor themselves for symptoms, and really importantly so that they don’t spread the disease unknowingly to other people,” Marathon County Health Department Public Information Officer Judy Burrows said.

Representatives from your local health department will try to contact you several times via phone if attempts made to reach someone are unsuccessful.

“This gives scammers an additional opportunity because they know that government officials may be contacting people to do contact tracing,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “If it is somebody who has a number that’s unrecognizable or they won’t give you their name or number, that’s a sign that they’re trying to hide something."

Both Burrows and Przybelski said health departments will identify themsleves right away along with why they're calling. They won't ask for personal information like your social security number or financial information.

“If somebody is asking for that information that should be an indication to people that what’s going on is not legitimate and instead is a scam,” Kaul added.

However, you may be asked to confirm your date of birth so health officials can ensure they're speaking with the right person and for record purposes.

Health officials say it's important to answer the phone if you don't recognize the number just in case it's related to contact tracing, but if you believe someone on the other line is trying to scam you; ask them to confirm who they work for, hang up and call the agency to confirm, or call your local law enforcement.

Rashad Williams

News 9 Reporter

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