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I-Team: State warns of fake unemployment compensation websites


EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Pennsylvania state officials are issuing a warning about scammers targeting unemployed residents. The scam involves the creation of fake websites designed to steal personal information.

Investigators say these scammers know that millions of Pennsylvanians, who lost their jobs or were laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been facing challenges trying to obtain their unemployment benefits. Now, they are trying to use those COVID challenges to their advantage to try and steal your money.

The I-Team spoke with Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity about the latest scam targeting the unemployed.

“To date, treasury has reclaimed almost $300 million just this year from scammers- the majority from fraud related to unemployment compensation,” said Garrity. “We want residents to know that scammers are creating fake websites and what they are trying to do is trick people into thinking they are applying for unemployment benefits. So when they do that, they end up disclosing personal information and then scammers can use that information to commit identity theft.”

Garrity says all of that can happen with a seemingly, harmless opening of an email or link to one of these fake websites.

“Your know how you get a lot of emails that have links and it says ‘Click Here’? Never click on those links or texts that say ‘apply for unemployment benefits here.'”

And that, Garrity says, can open the door to these scammers to steal your identity with the ultimate goal of stealing your money.

“The scammers are out there. That’s what folks have to recognize. The scammers are out there. Be judicious in how you navigate the internet,” said State Senator John Yudichak.

He says scammers know that people can easily get caught up with all of the information being put out related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’re getting inundated with information whether its from the US Congress, from the general assembly here in Pennsylvania, new programs, you’re reading about new things everyday, so it’s easy to click on one of these websites and to get trapped.”

Senator Yudichak also says the scammers play a numbers game. They are betting that some folks will be duped to click on these fake websites and before those people know it, the damage has already been done.

Visit the PA Treasury Department website for more information.

Do you have a news tip? Reach out to the Eyewitness News I-Team or call our I-Team hotline at 570-706-7428. 

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