Here’s how to tell if coronavirus contact tracer is real or phony

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Contact tracer Alejandra Camarillo works at Harris County Public Health contact tracing facility, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Houston. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that the state is facing a "massive outbreak" in the coronavirus pandemic and that some new local restrictions may be needed to protect hospital space for new patients. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Virginia — Contact tracers working for the health department might send you a text message.

So might a scam artist.


Here’s how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and someone trying to exploit the pandemic.

The first thing to look for is how the tracer shows up on your caller ID, Virginia public health officials say. Legitimate contact tracers will always appear as “VDH COVID Team” on your phone.


Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have been exposed to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Tracers will instruct those individuals to quarantine and monitor their symptoms daily. The purpose of the tracers is to stop the spread of the virus.

Real tracers will never ask for money, Social Security numbers, bank accounts or credit card information. Federal Trade Commission officials say anyone who does is a scammer.

Real tracers might send you text messages. But only “spam” will ask you to click on a link, officials say.

Virginia contact tracers will offer to enroll residents in a voluntary system called Sara Alert. The system allows residents to update local health departments on their health statuses during the time they are being monitored for symptoms.

The system always contacts users from the same phone number, 844-957-2721, or email,