Phishing scam involving unemployment benefits looks to get your personal info

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With millions still unemployed, scammers are trying to use that hook to gain your personal information. Part of the way they’re doing that is through a phishing text message making its way to phones across the country.

Federal unemployment benefits expired Sept. 4, yet on Sept. 7, a text message appeared in some people’s phones telling them to make a federal unemployment claim by clicking a link in the text message.

The text message claims to be from the “Employment Development Department of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistant” and asks you to click the link to get to their website.

Why send it as a text?

That’s because it’s a very efficient way of communicating.

Experts say 95 percent of text messages that are sent are read and 70 percent of text messages are read in the first 5 minutes of receipt.

When you click the link on this text message, it takes you to a webpage that’s not with any official agency.

It’s actually a website hosted by a service that allows people to use drag and drop elements to create a website.

There’s a lot of text on the webpage about the American Rescue Plan’s Covid Unemployment benefits that expired Sept. 4, but the heart of the website is in its attempt to get your personal information.

At the bottom of the webpage, there’s a form that’s asking for your name, address, email, phone, and your Social Security numbers. The website also wants you to upload the front and back of your driver’s license.

This is phishing.

“Your data is worth money,” said cybersecurity expert Ryan Cloutier. “The average American’s data is worth between $250 to $300 on the black market.”

The text message and the website look so official, so how can you tell it’s a fake? Cloutier offers a solution.

“The easiest trick is to read the email out loud and pretend there’s a human standing in front of you asking for this,” he said. “A lot of times it’ll cause you to pause.”

CBS 17 did that – first with the text message.

We found a line that says: “You’ll learn what to expect and the actions you need to take during your claim to receive your COVID-19.” Receive COVID-19? That’s a major error that makes no sense.

On the website, there’s a line that says, “Benefits extended until September 4, 202.

202? That’s a significant typo no official agency would let pass.

There are also assorted punctuation errors and sentences that run together.

When Sbraccia sent copies of the text message and website to the state DES, agency spokesman Larry Parker said, “DES will never send a text message regarding an unemployment insurance claim.”

He said, “claims assistance is available by phone at 888-737-0259 and via our online chat option.”

Parker said fraud can also be reported via the DES fraud hotline at 984-465-9224 and through an online form.

The Division of Employment Security occasionally receives notification of potential scams aimed at unemployment claimants and their current or former employers. It’s put together a compilation of those scams on its webpage so you can see what criminals are doing to try and trick you.

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