Unemployment Scams Skyrocket, Fueled By COVID-19

Tough Times Breeds Uncertainty

We tend not to ask too many questions during tough times and let things slide when we aren’t sure about a situation.

And as with all things related to COVID-19, there’s an air of uncertainty that hasn’t left the planet since it began in early 2020.  So, we’re all a little uncertain.  We’re all a bit confused about what is ok or normal.  It’s all-new, and the bad guys know it.

You may have lost your job before, and you are familiar with the unemployment process.  But now we have stimulus checks in the mix.  Whether you think those stimulus dollars are enough, too much, or too little, the fact remains that there is a lot more money up for grabs than there was in previous years.  That draws cybercriminals like bees to honey.  And with unemployment coverage and options now available to the self-employed, freelancers, contract workers, or those who work part-time, that picking ground is larger than ever.

With claims that can be up and around $20,000, the payday for their crime is worth the work – and unfortunately, with relaxed security measures and a rush to aid, hackers have found that there are few challenges in achieving success.

The attacks account for 35-40% of new UE claims and are coming from foreign crime rings.  How do they do it?  By stealing your identity when you:

  1. Fall prey to alerts such as winning a prize or being approved for stimulus benefits.
  2. Click a bogus link in emails or login to a phony site and provide confidential info.
  3. Fail to change your password from a past data breach.

How You Can Stay Safe

There are some ways that you can be on top of cybercrime against your identity:

  • Do not pay to file for unemployment – ever.  No fee will ever be in place.
  • Watch your credit report and financial statements regularly.
  • Always report fraud or suspected fraud to law enforcement.
  • Don’t take the bait. You will NOT win any pandemic relief.  If it is available to one, it is available for free via a secure government site.

The upside: Government agencies are now taking more robust measures to prevent the loss of aid to hackers and require more verification that requires proof of needing the benefits and proving you are who you say you are.

The downside: Verification can slow down the distribution, leading to frustration, but in the end, these are measures that are in place to ensure your safety.

Conclusion

NEVER relax your guard. As a matter-of-fact, times like these mean that you should be more leary than ever. Cybercriminals don’t care if you’re hurting or that you are living day-to-day. If you have money, even a small amount, then you are a target for crooks.

If anyone asks you for money, even a small amount, via a phone call, email, or website, think before you respond. You don’t have to “pay-to-play” when it comes to Government benefits.

Stay safe.

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