June 15, 2020 - Douglas Myser

Scammers targeting unemployment claims. Across the country, consumers are being warned that fraud is on the rise relating to jobless claims. The U.S. Secret Service has spotted trouble in Florida, Washington, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. "It is extremely likely every state is vulnerable to this scheme and will be targeted if they have not been already," according to the Secret Service alert issued May 14th. The alert noted that a significant number of fraudulent claims have been stolen with ID information from school employees, first responders, and other government employees. It is assumed, according to federal authorities, that the ring has a massive database to "submit the volume of applications observed thus far".  Scammers targeting unemployment claims.

Some data being used might belong to anyone, jobless or not. Retirees, for example, report receiving unemployment forms to verify their identity from the state when they didn't try to make any claims recently. The online con artists claim to be gig workers or self employed individuals to steal money from the unemployment system. Unemployment benefits have become particularly lucrative for thieves during the coronavirus crisis. An extra $600 in benefits may be added on top of state jobless benefits for those who lose work due to the COVID-9 Crisis under the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. "A nigerian crime ring is the prime suspect, but doubtless there are others" said Adam Levine, the founder of Cyber Scout, which offers identify theft protection and data security.

"They have motive: financial gain. They have the means: They are experts at phishing attacks and have an international network of money mules who have been laundering money for them for years." And Levin suspects that many unsuspecting folks who are desperate for additional work at this moment could be caught in parts of this scheme too. "This scam targets employed and unemployed Americans alike," Levin said.