HOUSTON – We are all adjusting to what we call our “new normal,” but with so much uncertainty and new information every day about testing, contact tracing and other coronavirus related issues, it’s easy to miss red flags that would otherwise make us stop and ask more questions.
You should be aware of these recent ways people are trying to take advantage of you during the coronavirus pandemic, and share the details with your friends and family members.
Fake contact-tracing text message with links
Don’t click on any links within text messages. There are some circulating that claim that you have been exposed to someone that has tested positive for coronavirus. The text then includes a link it asks you to click for more information.
Clicking on these links can download software onto your device, giving scammers access to everything on it.
The city of Houston is calling, emailing and sending text messages as part of contact-tracing efforts, but they will never include links for you to click.
Here are some tips to make sure the text message you received is legit.
- When you receive an initial call from a contact tracer at the Houston Health Department, the number displayed will be 713-853-8700. If you receive a call on a landline phone, the caller ID displayed will be Houston Health 713-853-8700.
- As a follow up to an initial call, a contact tracer from the Houston Health Department (HHD) may call or text you from their HHD mobile phone, which could be from many different phone numbers.
- Automated text messages from Houston Health Department contact tracers will come from 35134, 73940 or 39242.
- Contact-tracing automated email assessments from the Houston Health Department will come from email@example.com.
- If you receive a call, text or email regarding contact tracing and you are unsure if it’s legitimate, please call the Houston Health Department COVID-19 call center at 832-393-4220.
- Contact tracers will never ask for your social security number, bank information or credit card number.
Sales tactic disguised as water testing
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the city has received reports of people wearing construction vests who knock on doors and tell residents they need to test their water.
“City of Houston employees are not knocking on anybody’s doors asking to have entry into your home to sample the water for COVID-19,” Turner said.
The same day Turner made the announcement, one KPRC 2 viewer said a man was going around her neighborhood leaving water sample collection cups and flyers titled “Community Water Test.” The instructions asked her to complete and sign the form, fill the cup with water from her tap and leave it outside where they would pick it up the following morning.
There were no claims on the flyer that it was the city of Houston collecting water samples, but the words “Community Water Test” make it seem like it’s a government agency.
This is a common tactic by companies that sell water filtration systems. They use the information you put on the flyer to call you up and give you the hard sell. If you get one of these flyers left at your home, just throw it away.