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Broome County Health Department explains how you can be sure contact tracing calls are legitimate

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BINGHAMTON (WBNG) -- As New York State begins the reopening process, The Broome County Health Department is reminding everyone that contact tracing is an important part of that process. At the same time, they are urging you to be on the lookout for scammers.

"A case investigator contacts a positive case, finds out all of the contacts that person has and what's considered a contact is anyone who has been within six feet of that positive case for ten minutes or longer," says Christopher Taft, part of the Broome County Health Department's contact tracing team. "We're professionals here. We're trying to do something that's vital to the community."

Taft says while he understands the concerns community members may have about the contact tracing process, it's important for the health department to be able to keep track of those close contacts..

"We occasionally hear someone say 'you're taking away my rights' and to a certain extent that could be true, but really what we're doing is trying to protect everyone here," he says. "I can see that point of view, but I also know that most people have someone who's maybe a little bit older or in poor health and if they get COVID-19 it's a crap-shoot at that point."

He says while those concerns have made some people reluctant to participate, a new report by the Federal Trade Commission warning of scammers posing as contact tracers has made things even more difficult.

He says he wants the public to know that it's easy to tell if the person contacting you is really a member of the Broome County Health Department's team.

"All of our legitimate numbers begin with 7-7-8," he says "Most of them are 2-8 after that but if they don't begin with 7-7-8 it's simply not the health department."

He also says at this point if anyone comes to your house to tell you that you may have been exposed, it's a scam.

"We're not going to knock on your door and say 'hey you're a close contact we have to talk to you' we do these things by phone," he says.

Taft says if you do get a call from someone saying they are a contact tracer and you still aren't sure, a member of his team will always be willing to prove their identity.

"If someone is concerned I give them our main number to call and to ask for me by name and that always works," he says.

Taft says while he understands everyone's concerns from scams to privacy, he wants you to remember one thing if you get the call.

"We're the health department. This is just an extension of our mission to keep everyone as safe and healthy as we can," he says. "If we're calling you and asking you to stay inside for fourteen days really it's for your benefit and more importantly for anyone around you who you may know or love who's at risk."

Jack Arpey

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