There has been an uptick in opportunistic fraudsters attempting unemployment benefit and identity theft scams in Westchester since the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic plagued the region.
The Westchester County District Attorney’s Office issued an alert warning of a surge in scams since the COVID-19 outbreak began in mid-March.
According to District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr., “Anyone who has been working or has been laid off can become a victim of unscrupulous bad actors who seize identity, file a claim for unemployment benefits using personal identifying information, and obtain money fraudulently from the New York State Department of Labor.”
Scarpino said his office has has received reports of fraudulent unemployment benefit claims in recent months.
Potential victims have learned of the fraud when either they either receive a letter from the New York State Department of Labor relating to an application for benefits they never sought, or their employer receives a similar notification.
The criminals purchase identifying information on the dark web through hacking, or exploit a resident who unwittingly give them the information.
Fraudsters get personal information through a number of methods including email, text phishing, or by phone–disguising themselves as legitimate banks or organizations asking to confirm personal information.
“Be vigilant,” Scarpino stated. “Make sure any questions you receive by electronic means or by telephone are from trusted sources. Keep your personal information personal. Losing your benefits to a thief is the last thing we want to happen. As always, stay safe.”
According to the District Attorney’s Office, to avoid becoming the victim of an unemployment or identity theft scam, one should:
- Check credit reports, banking information, medical information that may have details that need to be removed or secured;
- Review regularly all financial statements for unusual activity. Immediately contact the company if an item looks suspicious;
- Shred or destroy credit card statements, bills, insurance papers, or bank statements before throwing them out;
- Release your Social Security number only when required by law;
- Ask for a phone number to call back a person asking for information. A legitimate company will give it to you.
- Give out personal or financial information over the phone;
- Provide or validate your personal information from contacts not initiated by you;
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.