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LITTLE ROCK -- Scam artists have found an opportunity by using the important task of contact tracing to steal money and the identity of Arkansans, the Arkansas attorney general's office said in a news release.

In trying to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Arkansas Department of Health is using contact tracing to identify people who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

"One way bad actors are impersonating contact tracers is by sending text messages containing a link and claiming that by clicking on the link, the recipient will be contacted about a positive test, but in actuality, the link gives the scam artist direct access to the phone holder's personal information," the news release said.

"Con artists are impersonating contact tracers in order to steal your money and your identity," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said in the release. "The Arkansas Department of Health will not ask for your social security information or demand a payment when reaching out about contact with positive cases of COVID-19."

"When a patient is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Arkansas Health Department provides staff to assist the patient with identifying all individuals with whom they made close contact during the 48-hours preceding the positive COVID-19 test. Those identified by the patient through the contact tracing process are then notified by public health staff of the positive case, are asked to enroll in the Department of Health's Situational Awareness Response Assistance (SARA) system for email updates, and they are asked to quarantine," the release said.

The attorney general's office offered the following tips to avoid falling victim to the contact tracing scam:

• Contact tracing will not cost money. Avoid giving personal bank account information over the phone or buying gift cards to pay scam artists for fake contact tracing attempts.

• Avoid clicking on links in emails and text messages unless you signed up to receive the messages.

Anyone who receives an unsolicited email or text message from a potential contact tracer should verify its authenticity by contacting the Arkansas Department of Health at [email protected] or 800-803-7847.

To file a complaint about potential contact tracing scams, call the attorney general's office at 800-482-8982, email [email protected] or visit ArkansasAG.gov.

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