Unemployment fraud comes in a range of forms. Sometimes, it involves claimants providing false information to file for unemployment benefits when they don’t genuinely qualify for them.
However, unemployment fraud may also go hand-in-hand with identity theft. This form of the crime occurs when someone seeks to collect unemployment benefits in someone else’s name.
Unfortunately, this type of unemployment fraud has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so many people have had to file for unemployment as the pandemic ravaged the economy, opportunities for scammers are more abundant than before.
It’s important to be familiar with the warning signs that you’re the target of an unemployment fraud scam. To ensure someone else doesn’t claim benefits to which you’re entitled, keep the following tips in mind:
Keep an Eye on Your Accounts
This is a tip you should keep in mind even when unemployment fraud isn’t on the rise. It’s smart to keep a watchful eye on your financial accounts at all times. This includes your bank accounts, credit card statements, and credit reports.
If you notice any unusual or unauthorized transactions related to unemployment services, refer to this blog’s previous guide on what to do if you suspect you’re the victim of unemployment fraud.
Don’t Trust Unemployment “Services”
A common tactic unemployment fraud scammers use is to approach a target and pretend to represent a company that can help them file for unemployment.
These services are almost always not legitimate—you need to file for unemployment benefits yourself. If a company claims they can make your life easier by handling an unemployment benefits claim for you, don’t trust them.
Be Wary of Phone Solicitations
Another tactic that scammers may use is to call targets, claim they represent a government agency, and ask questions about information on a previously submitted unemployment form. If you haven’t filed for unemployment yet, that’s a dead giveaway the call is a scam. The person on the other end is trying to get you to offer information they will then use to steal your identity and commit unemployment fraud.
In addition, always remember that government unemployment insurance agencies aren’t going to contact you out of the blue. You always need to file a claim for unemployment insurance to get the process started.
Learn to Recognize Common Phishing Scams
Phishing involves fraudulently sending emails claiming to represent an organization or government agency. Such emails often feature links to pages where you’ll be asked to supply such information as your bank account number, Social Security number, credit card number, and other personal details.
It would be impossible to cover all the tactics phishing scammers use. In general, though, you should review any email requesting your personal information for errors that indicate they’re fake—for example, a logo that doesn’t perfectly match the logo of the company or agency the email is supposed to come from.
Other common signs of phishing emails include spelling and grammatical errors, an overly familiar or otherwise odd tone, discrepancies in email addresses and domain names, and suspicious links and attachments. Additionally, phishers often urge you to act quickly or risk missing out on some benefit.
If you receive a suspicious email, do not click on any links, open any attachments, nor reply to the message. Always contact a company or organization directly if you receive an email “from” them requesting information.
Know There Shouldn’t Be a Fee for Filing
You should always file for unemployment benefits directly through your state’s unemployment insurance program. Unfortunately, scammers sometimes set up fake websites or documents claiming to represent unemployment agencies.
One sign of a scam is a fee for filing for unemployment benefits. There should never be any fee to file. If you have to pay to file for unemployment benefits, you’re being scammed.
File in Person if Possible
If you have the option, it may be a good idea to file for unemployment in person. At the very least, most local unemployment offices will allow you to pick up the paperwork you need in person so that you don’t have to worry if an online form you’re filling out is actually part of a scam.
It’s unfortunate that, during our trying times, when so many people rely on unemployment benefits, scammers are taking advantage of their vulnerability. However, by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be less likely to fall victim to their tactics.