Isolation diary: Avoiding track and trace scammers

I have been writing about scams for many years.

In fact, the blog I used to write was targeted for a massive Denial of Service attack years ago, which managed to bring down the websites of several MPs who were hosted on the same server. I had been exposing an outfit that kept on being shut down by the courts then re-opening under a new name. I was sent threatening letters before my website was attacked. This incident was investigated by the Serious Organised Crime Agency and we tracked the technical source of the attack to Romania.

I have to admit that it did shake me a bit. I was advised to never use public wi-fi, and I am still very cautious about doing that even today. However I still post information about new scams on Facebook, so far with no adverse effects.

Last month I wrote a diary entry “Avoiding scams“, about the genuine texts we had all received from the Government and the fake ones that looked very similar. Ironically some people thought the Government messages were fraudulent, including important texts telling them to shield.

Given the number of dodgy cold calls we all get, even with Telephone Preference Service in place, how are we going to be able to tell whether a test and trace call is genuine?

Yesterday Sarah Olney asked Matt Hancock that question in the House, and actually received a helpful answer.

She writes:

In the chamber today I asked the Health Secretary a question about protecting people from phone scammers pretending to be government test and trace workers. He replied that tracers would never do any of the following things:

Ask for your financial information

Ask for your medical information

Reveal anyone else’s medical information

Ask you to pay for anything

If anyone calls you and does any of the above they are not working for the government and you should report them online. See the Met Police’s information page about reporting scams here:

Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Adam Bernard 3rd Jun '20 - 5:08pm

    It’s not really enough. There needs to be an official phone number on the NHS website where — if you’re not sure whether the advice you were given was genuine — you can phone and check.

    Otherwise any prankster could call and tell you not to leave the house for a fortnight. There needs to be a sensible verification mechanism.

  • > There needs to be an official phone number on the NHS website
    There needs to be more.
    So far the best solution offered is for the track and trace caller to offer a “contact transaction key” say a 6 digit number. The person called can then use this along with the web advertised/published phone number to confirm the caller is indeed from the track and trace service and be returned to this agent to continue the conversation. (Naturally, if you only have a fixed line phone, you should call a different number between receiving the call and calling the service number to confirm your phone line isn’t still connected to the potential scammer.)

    Part of the problem is that government tends to think in terms of confirming the person called is the person they want to speak to and forget that the called person also needs to differentiate and authenticate a genuine call from a scammer call.

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