As the reopening of the Garden State moves forward, COVID-19 testing and the state’s contact tracing program are being expanded, but officials are advising all New Jerseyans to be aware of a growing number of contact-tracing scams.

According to Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, thousands of phony contact-tracing text messages have been sent to Garden State residents in all 21 counties.

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus. Those people are asked to self-quarantine and get tested if they become ill.

The scam texts claim to be from a contact tracer who asks for personal information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates. Sometimes they send a link, which, if clicked, can allow them to take over a computer or smartphone.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said residents should be aware “that a contact tracer will not ask for your Social Security number, your bank or credit card number or your insurance information over a text or over the phone.”

State Epidemiologist Tina Tan said contact tracers will typically call someone and inform them they may have come in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19.

She said the contact tracer will explain the situation, answer questions and spell out what precautions an individual needs to take make sure they don’t possibly expose others to the illness.

“During that entire time, the contact tracer is making assurances about the contact’s privacy because that is first and foremost," Tan said.

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Maples said while most of these scam messages have been texts, everyone should also watch out for fake emails and phone calls as well.

“Contact tracing is vital. It’s going to be very important over the next few months and years as we really get a handle on this virus but there are very specific ways that it’s done and sending you a text asking for personal information is not one of them," Maples said.

Murphy said “there’s a special place in hell for people trying to scam you on contact tracing.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com