CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has alerted consumers to a text messaging scam that seeks to take advantage of efforts to identify and isolate those who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.

The scam involves unsolicited text messages from a supposed contact tracer. The scammer may impersonate a state or local health department and urge the text message recipient to click on a link for more information.

Those who click on the phony link expose their phone or other device to malware and the potential theft of sensitive information.

“Scammers never cease to find new ways to steal from consumers,” Morrisey said. “Consumers must remain ever vigilant and protect their personal, identifiable information. Never click on an unfamiliar link and never share information without verifying who is on the other end.”

The Federal Trade Commission first reported the scam last week. It reports legitimate contact tracers will not ask for Social Security numbers, money or bank account information.

Legitimate contact tracers are hired by state and local health departments. They are tasked with identifying those who have had contact with a confirmed, COVID-19 patient, after which the tracer instructs those individuals to quarantine and keeps a daily check on their symptoms.

Anyone receiving such a text message should contact the health department in question via its legitimate phone number and/or website.

In all instances, the attorney general urges consumers to never click on an unsolicited or suspicious link and never share personally identifiable, financial or otherwise sensitive information without verifying the legitimacy of the would-be recipient. The same goes for never agreeing to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account.

Anyone with questions regarding a potential text messaging scam should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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