During the coronavirus, millions of Americans filed unemployment claims to provide them with much-needed income while out of work. Unfortunately, at the same time, fraudsters began scamming their way into a significant chunk of those benefits, causing innocent people to lose out.
According to the Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labour, fraudsters are offering to help individuals file their claims as a way to get their information. Door-to-door visits, unsolicited calls and social media messages are popular methods scammers are targeting their victims.
Targets of unemployment scams are mostly regular individuals. Criminals are filling out bogus claims forms using the details of a qualifying victim and then redirecting funds to their own bank accounts. Some states are trying to counter with better identity verification processes but more often than not, it is too little, too late.
Here are some of the signs that an unemployment scam is afoot. Don’t be fooled.
There’s A Fee
If somebody purporting to represent the government or an agency asks for a fee to help you access your claim, they are almost certainly a scammer. If you require unemployment support, you should only file through your state’s official unemployment insurance agency.
You Are Not Using A Real Government Portal
Scammers will sometimes try to clone a website or social media pages to make them look like official government portals. Users then unwittingly enter their details as they normally would, giving criminals the data they need to steal their identity.
To avoid becoming a victim of this tactic, don’t follow links sent to you via email, text or chat apps. Instead, search for government portals via Google and other reputable search engines from scratch. These will take you to legitimate links only, avoiding any scam addresses.
If you want to check that you are using an official platform for state unemployment benefits, visit CareerOneStop. This Department of Labor-sponsored website compiles all of the official links and phone numbers for every state insurance program.
You Are Being Asked To Share Sensitive Information Via Text Or Email
When you file for state unemployment benefits, operators will ask you to share sensitive financial information. Questions will include asking for your name, address, social security number, recent earnings and employers’ names for the last 18 months. Official agencies will also ask you for some identity-related information to help them verify you are not a scammer.
However, officials should never ask you to share these details via text or email. Any information you do provide should be done either via the telephone with a rep or a legitimate government portal.
Some states are using call-back services to help them process high applicant volumes. However, none are calling people out of the blue to offer them unemployment insurance.
These worrying developments highlight the need for personal computer support and cybersecurity from a reputable IT company. Given the lucrative situations for scammers, millions of people could potentially find themselves locked out of receiving funds that they need to live. If you think you may have been scammed, you can report it to the office of the Inspector General.