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Debunked: This message advising people to 'get tested' is not from the HSE's contact tracing team

Recipients are advised not to click on the link attached to the message.

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A TEXT MESSAGE has been sent to a number of people across the country over the past week claiming to be from the HSE’s Covid-19 contact tracing team.

That message states that the recipient has been identified as having been in recent contact with someone who has been diagnosed with the Covid-19 coronavirus, or someone who is displaying symptoms. 

It states: “Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for Covid-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested.”

A link is also attached to the message.

However, the public is advised not to click on the link in the message, as it is not from a trusted source such as the HSE, and that the HSE contact tracing teams are reaching out to close contacts of the virus via a phone call. 

The message being sent to some members of the public appears as this: 

Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 11.02.43

The HSE has asked those who receive this message to not click the link, advising that the message should be deleted. 

Separately, some people may receive a text message from the HSE confirming a date and time for testing, if they have been referred by their GP. 

But that is simply a confirmation message following a referral.

A HSE spokesperson said: “Please do not click on links in suspicious texts or emails purporting to be from the HSE Covid-19 contact tracing team. You will be telephoned by the contact tracing team if you are listed as a close contact.

“Some people may receive a message from the HSE confirming a date and time for testing if they have been referred by their GP.”

Yesterday, Assistant Secretary General to the Department of An Taoiseach, Elizabeth Canavan said the government was aware of these messages in circulation and issued a similar warning to that issued by the HSE:

Don’t click on this link, delete the text immediately. You will not be contacted in this way as part of the contact tracing process, and at all times go to trusted information sources for information, your GP, the HSE, or Gov.ie. 

Policing 

In recent weeks, An Garda Síochána said it has become aware of bad actors who have orchestrated different types of scams associated with the coronavirus outbreak. 

These include phone calls purporting to be from charities, and which request donations, as well as online phishing scams. 

“An Garda Síochána continue to remind the public to beware of the possibility for fraudsters exploiting the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus both online or in person,” it said.

“The main types of scams include phishing, social engineering scams and fraudulent selling/trading.”

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie  

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