The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and local health departments will be contacting those who test positive for COVID-19, as well as anyone those people may have had contact with. Health departments across the state, including 130 employees from the MDHHS trained to help these departments, are attempting to gather information on the spread of the virus.
State and local health department employees are asking people when the onset of symptoms was, what their general health condition is now, which individuals they’ve been in contact with since symptoms began, and the places they’ve been since the onset of symptoms. These employees will then reach out to the people who those who test positive have been in contact with.
But many people are reluctant to answer their phones if they don’t know the number, particularly if it’s not a local number. In addition, there have been reports of scams related to COVID-19. So how will you know it’s actually MDHHS or your local health department?
“That is a big concern for us, because we do know that there are a lot of scams out there, unfortunately,” Lynn Sutfin of the MDHHS says. “Local health department phone numbers have been spoofed, so [a scam call] looks like it’s actually coming from your local health department.”
Sutfin says a legitimate call from MDHHS or your local health department won’t ask for insurance information, provide medication or offer you opportunities to purchase it, or ask for financial information.
“What this call is about is asking you about your health: who you’ve been in contact with, information that would help them determine the next steps that you should take as far as being tested or self-isolation for COVID-19. None of these things would be about financial information that could potentially steal your identity or empty your bank account,” she says.
She says people should still be vigilant about scammers claiming to represent state and local health departments, and says people can contact these agencies if they’ve received a call and are questioning its legitimacy.
“So if they were concerned about it, they can look up that phone number and then call it directly, because we do know they can be spoofed, but if you’re calling the actual health department directly, you should be able to find someone there who can determine yes, we did call you, or here’s who you need to speak with,” says Sutfin.
Sutfin says an employee staffing the state’s COVID-19 hotline would also be able to provide assistance.
“They would be able to get your information and then have somebody get back to you and let you know that yes, this is a legitimate call, they were trying to get a hold of you, so please provide your information to them,” she says.