Meriden Police warn against COVID scams, crooks posing as contact tracers

New Haven

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The City of Meriden and Meriden police are alerting residents that crooks looking to cash in on COVID-19 are pretending to be contact tracers.

The CDC has also sent out a warning about this happening in communities across the country.

RELATED: State officials warning CT residents of potential COVID-19 vaccine scams, suspicious behavior

It’s making legit contact tracers furious because it’s their jobs to call people with COVID-19 and figure out who they may have recently had close contact with in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Some of these people who test positive — they’re really sick,” said Elizabeth Demerchant, an official Meriden contact tracer. “They’re nervous. They don’t know what to do so when someone pretends to be the health department and they’re looking for guidance, they’re looking for help, and these people are trying to scam them. I mean, that’s just terrible.”

“If they continue, unfortunately, we may see residents less trustworthy of public health,” said Meriden’s Director of Health and Human Services Lea Crown.

So far, the health department has said only a few Meriden residents have received these bogus phone calls, but they — and police — wanted to put out an early warning before the scams spread. They wanted to educate people about the types of questions legit contact tracers will ask when they call you and which questions they won’t ask.

They WILL ask things like:

“How they’re feeling,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll ask them where they live to confirm their address and date of birth, and then we’ll also ask them questions like ‘who do you live with in the home?’ — as far as purposes to see who they may have exposed so they can now quarantine themselves.”

They WILL NOT ask things like:

“We will never ask any sort of financial information,” Elizabeth said.

That’s very important to know because Meriden Police say the scammers often end up asking questions about your banking situation or questions focusing on your social security information. Police say NEVER EVER divulge any of your private financial information.

“Basically, anything that’s too personal that doesn’t have to deal with your health and well-being,” Elizabeth said.

Meriden Police say if you get a bogus phone call, contact your local police or health department immediately. The Meriden PD says the crooked COVID calls may be coming from a savvy group.

“They are very difficult to apprehend because they are so technologically advanced in the sense that they’re able to use different IP addresses and able to circumvent law enforcement,” said Lt. John Mennone.

He also says that’s why the FBI may get involved and the best weapon against these scammers could be the information you give police about them when and if the scammers contact you.

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