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With many people filing for unemployment, now more than ever, scammers are actively trying to steal personal information and gain access to unemployment benefits.
To help you navigate and stay safe, here are some of the most common unemployment scams to watch out for.
3 common unemployment scams
As people are experiencing scams, fraud, and identity theft, they’re reporting it to their state unemployment office. And those offices are doing their best to warn the public about current scams, including:
1. Paying to file for unemployment
Filing for unemployment is free — you will not have to pay to complete your application and you do not need to pay a service to help you file. Period.
If a website, email, or phone call is claiming that they can help you file for unemployment as a paid service, that is a scam.
Also, watch out for phone calls and emails after you file. If someone says you need to pay to finish filing for unemployment, that’s also a scam. Don’t give out your payment information, bank account details, or any other sensitive information over the phone.
2. Phishing emails asking for personal information
Phishing emails — emails that are sent as a way to get access to your personal information — have become more difficult to spot. And, unfortunately, they’re targeting unemployment recipients right now.
Here are two examples of phishing emails to look out for:
- Deactivated debit cards: You may be receiving unemployment benefits deposited directly onto a debit card. A scam shared by the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) involves unemployment recipients being sent emails that their debit card has been deactivated and claiming that additional information is needed to reactivate it. Once you supply the requested information, the scammer can gain access to your debit card funds or steal your identity.
- Incomplete applications: Another scam shared by the Arizona DES is an email sent stating that the application for unemployment is incomplete and providing a link to complete the application. This type of email is just another attempt to steal your personal information.
3. False websites that offer to help you file
If you’re unsure how to file for unemployment, you may be tricked into filing with a false website. These websites advertise that they will help you file for unemployment through your state for free, but their goal is to steal your personal information.
If you’re unsure of how to file for unemployment in your state, use the state lookup tool on CareerOneStop.com, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
How to protect yourself from unemployment scams
While these scams can be scary (and surprisingly hard to identify), there are ways that you can guard yourself and your personal information.
Double-check email addresses
If you’re unsure whether an email is fake or not, check out the email address.
Scammers can get very creative and may be able to snag an email address that is close to the official email address for your state, but it won’t be exact.
If you’re worried something doesn’t look right, don’t click on any link and don’t provide your information. Contact your state unemployment office to verify whether the email is legitimate. You might also find information about email addresses used by your state. For example, Arizona unemployment emails will always come from an email address ending in @azdes.gov.
Make sure you verify who is calling you
The general best practice for keeping your personal information private is to be careful who you share this information with. If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with your state unemployment office, don’t willingly hand out your details without confirming that the caller is, in fact, who they say they are.
Your state most likely has a way that employees will verify their identity to you. For example, when employees at the New York Department of Labor began calling people with incomplete unemployment applications, they released a statement to educate the public about avoiding phone scams. They shared that “anyone calling from the Department of Labor will verify their identity by providing the date you filed your unemployment insurance application and the type of claim you filed.”
Double-check emails and phone numbers with your state
Given the number of unemployment scams, state websites have started sharing scams that have been reported to them. For example, Arizona lists reported unemployment insurance scams and Wisconsin has a long summary of unemployment insurance scams both claimants and employers should be aware of.
If you’re unsure about an email or a phone call that you’ve received, check with your state. They will likely have a list of scams that they’re aware of and you can see if any sound similar to what you’re experiencing.
If something feels wrong, take the time to check it out
Being extra careful in protecting your personal information means staying skeptical in any instances where you’re being asked to provide personal details – whether you’re filing for unemployment or not. Even though this will take a bit more time, it’s much easier than sorting out a potential issue down the road. Stay educated and informed and we’ll all make it through this together.