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COVID-19 contact tracers: How you can tell a legitimate call from a scam

You may get a call from someone asking for some personal information, but it could be important for stopping the spread of coronavirus.

INDIANAPOLIS — When a student infected with the coronavirus walked into New Palestine High School, the school corporation nurse notified health authorities and called the parents of kids who were exposed to the virus.  

Here, administrators say system worked well, apparently better than in some other districts.

"Contract tracing has been getting a lot of noise in our department," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick. 

She explained how parents receive calls from a number they don't recognize and a stranger's voice asking personal questions.

"Are you Cole McCormick's mother, whose birthday is 'XYZ?'," McCormick said. "You have to say yes or no and the parents usually hang up," apparently thinking the call is an attempt at identity theft or another scam.

Contact tracing is being done by a patchwork of agencies. Parents may be called by the school, the county health department or a contractor hired by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Calls from the Indiana State Department of Health have a caller ID that reads "IN COVID" and the phone number 1-833-670-0067. If you don't answer, there will be follow up texts, voice mails and letters.

Shandy Dearth directs the undergraduate epidemiology program at the Fairbanks School of Public Health which has a contract with the city to hire and train contact tracers.

"They should be able to contact these cases and explain that you had someone tested positive here in your house, so we need information on this case," Dearth said.

She said legitimate tracers would never ask for money, financial information or Social Security numbers.

The information they need is invaluable.

"It's important," Dearth explained. "It's our chance to kind of catch these clusters before they grow large."

In a state where the number of new COVID-19 cases is increasing at a record rate.