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In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher.


In April, I urged a healthy skepticism of unsolicited emails and texts that look like legitimate surveys or Covid-19 vaccine public-service information. The Consumer Tip takeaways, as usual, are to refrain from clicking on any links or open attachments in such emails or texts, and from calling or using any provided phone number.

But there is a phone number or two that you might not recognize that you DO want to answer. Or, if skeptical, return a message. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19, a state or local health official may check in — a k a “contact tracing” — as part of an effort to help slow the spread of the disease. Yes, we’re returning to some pre-pandemic normalcy, but outbreaks continue to spike around the country and not everyone is vaccinated. Contract tracing is a location-specific way to let you know you may have been exposed. You may be asked to self-quarantine to stop the spread. Or to monitor your health and watch for Covid symptoms. Contract tracers also may provide resources (e.g., testing locations) and support. Information you share with a contact tracer is confidential.

Medicare last year circulated an explanation of contact tracing, noting that legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number or financial information. They also never ask for money, a Social Security number, salary or credit card information. Update: the concern over the new omicron variant just might bring contact tracing back into the spotlight if it proves to be both highly transmissible and lethal.

Here in Louisville, Ky., I received this helpful postcard (pictured) in the mail, with an eye-catching graphic on the front and, on the flip side, the city’s public health department phone number and a QR code to scan to save the number into my cellphone’s contacts list. That way, if I get a call from this number, it will immediately pop up with a Louisville city label to jog my memory.

Meanwhile, here’s a thank-you to TurboTax for this alert on a recent email:

Check before you click! TurboTax will never ask you for personal information in an email.
When you click on a link, the address should always contain “
This reminds the consumer that scammers are out there and to check that URL.