FTC Issued a Warning About Phishing Scams Involving Unemployment Benefits


Americans should be skeptical of text messages appearing to be from their state workforce agency, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Following the discovery of an SMS-based phishing effort targeting users of unemployment insurance benefits, the FTC has raised a red flag. In one year, consumers lost $57 million to phishing schemes, according to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.

"Identity thieves are targeting millions of people nationwide with scam phishing texts aimed at stealing personal information, unemployment benefits, or both," said Seena Gressin, attorney at the division of consumer and business education at the FTC. As part of the effort, several fraudulent texts are being sent out. One advises the receiver that their unemployment insurance (UI) claim requires "necessary corrections." Another instructs the target to double-check their personal details.

A targeted user who clicks on a link in one of these messages will be directed to a fake website impersonating their state workforce agency, which Gressin described as "looking very real." Instructions on the site ask the user to enter a slew of personal information, including their login credentials and Social Security number. "Fraudsters can use the information to file fraudulent UI benefits claims or for other identity theft," warned Gressin.

Scammers love to target people when they are most vulnerable, knowing that they will be more likely to fall for the trap. That is especially true for people who are unemployed and rely on unemployment benefits to get by. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclosed the information of seven different phishing texts that are now circulating. One reads "RI-DLT Labor: This is to notify you that your Rhode Island insurance claim account is currently on hold for verification. Please complete your verification by following the instruction link below to activate your account."

"As we continue to work our way through the pandemic and associated issues, unemployment insurance has become more and more important to people unable to work when jobs that match their skills are not available," said KnowBe4security awareness advocate Erich Kron. "With the recent rise in cases, due to the Delta variant and other factors, stress levels continue to rise for people impacted. This makes them prime candidates for attacks such as this, which threaten their only source of income."