FLEMINGTON — Gov. Phil Murphy wants residents to answer the phone when Health Department contact tracers call. But law enforcement officials are also warning residents to watch out for sophisticated scammers.

Prosecutors in Hunterdon County say scammers have been "spoofing" the phone number of the Health Department — that is, when they call, the number that appears on a person's caller ID does not belong to the scammer.

Hunterdon County Acting Prosecutor Michael Williams said Saturday that his detectives were investigating several reports of spoofing. He asked anyone with information to call 908-788-1129.

Murphy and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli have been urging residents to "take the call" from their army of community contact tracers who are racing against the clock to inform people of possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Contact tracers reach out after someone tests positive for COVID-19 to find out who they have been in close, extended contact with in recent weeks in order to inform those people to get tested and self-quarantine.

Murphy was alarmed to learn that the contact tracers were having success in reaching people only half the time.

Several COVID-19 outbreak clusters linked to high school and college parties this summer resulted in contact tracers scrambling to pinpoint all the people who attended. Murphy has repeatedly said that the contact tracing program is not a "witch hunt" and people should not be worried about tracers investigating them for underage drinking or other illicit activity.

Contact tracers will never ask people for financial information such as Social Security or bank account numbers, for payments or citizen status.

“Contact tracing is vital to saving lives and stopping the spread of this deadly virus. It is understandable the recent information about these phone scams may be alarming, but it is still important to fully cooperate with health department officials," Williams said.

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