Contact tracers in New Jersey, tasked with minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through conversations with the public, will never ask for your Social Security number or bank account information.

Scam artists are hoping you don't know that.

New Jersey health officials are urging residents to answer the phone when a contact tracer calls. But the state also wants folks to be aware of scammers pretending to work for a public health department in an effort to steal private information from anxious individuals.

"Obviously, emotions are running high. We're in an unprecedented situation," said Melissa Companick, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey. "Emotional decision making and emotional responses are not necessarily rational."

So if you're unsure whether the conversation you're having is legitimate, she said, hang up and dial your local health department.

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As of early August, more than 1,300 contact tracers were working in New Jersey, with representation in all 21 counties, getting in touch with people who've either tested positive for COVID-19 or come in close contact with a positive case. As many as 5,000 tracers could be needed in the Garden State.

The state health department said you may contacted by a tracer via phone, text message or letters dropped off at your door. You may be asked to confirm your birth date, address and other basic information.

The conversation may touch on how you're feeling, who you live with, your close contacts and where you work.

But questions about your immigration status and other personal information such as a credit card number should never be asked.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.