Avoiding Federal Unemployment Benefit Scams

By Ronald Kimmons. May 7th 2016

Due to its low publication costs and the additional layer of anonymity it provides, the Internet is full scam artists who engage in illegal or unethical acts that feed people misleading information with the intent of getting them to do something specific. Such scam artists make money either by extorting cash from their victims or by extracting valuable information that they may then sell or use for profit-bearing practices.

Unfortunately, the people most frequently targeted by such scam artists tend to be those who are made vulnerable due to things such as a lack of education or economic hardship. Scam artists may target these people by offering fake business opportunities or by promising them government money that may or may not actually be available. As of the writing of this article, due to present economic circumstances, one of the most frequently seen circumstances of online scams is the offering of government unemployment benefits by non-government entities.

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Scam Tactics

Many [|]Internet scam artists[:|] profit from their scams by making dubious charges on people’s credit cards or finding other ways of collecting money directly from their victims. Scam artists working through the offering of unemployment benefits, however, do not usually take money from their victims directly. Instead, they collect valuable information. Such scam artists use official-looking Web sites – often with “.org” domains – to convey a sense of trust. They then compel their viewers to “apply” for unemployment benefits by providing their personal information. The information that they collect in this way, rather than being used to get people government benefits, is actually used to market various products and services, such as online degree programs. In general, any website that displays advertisements or has text that reads like an advertisement – perhaps promising that you will receive benefits regardless of your qualifications – cannot be trusted.

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Actual Application Requirements

Scam artists targeting unemployed individuals in this way do not clearly express the actual requirements people must meet in order to qualify for [|]unemployment benefits[:|]. Much more is required than simply filling out a form. Applicants must prove that they have met the requirements for their state. For instance, to qualify for benefits, one must have worked at a company located in the state for a minimum amount of time. One must also have lost his or her job involuntarily: quitting does not make one qualified for unemployment benefits. Another requirement is that the beneficiary must be actively seeking work. Web sites that play down these requirements – or fail to mention them – should not be trusted.

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Legitimate Web Sites

In the United States, those seeking unemployment benefits from the government must apply through their respective state government agencies. The federal government does not accept unemployment benefit applications, and third-party organizations have no authority to do so. For this reason, Web sites with domain extensions such as “.net” or “.com” or even “.org” generally should not be trusted as reliable portals for unemployment benefit applications. In most cases, an applicant should only trust a “.gov” site affiliated with his or her home state. (Bear in mind, however, that state entities do sometimes operate Web sites that do not end in “.gov.”)

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Submitting Personal Information

One of the ways to differentiate between legitimate sites and scam sites is to look at the information that they are asking for. Web sites that are legitimately connected with government unemployment benefits will never ask for [|]credit card information[:|]. They will, however, ask for information regarding things such as your former employer and the reasons behind your departure from the workplace. Legitimate Web sites may ask for bank account information for the purpose of making direct deposits, but this normally occurs only after you have been approved for benefits, and not during the application process.

Going In Person

In most states, unemployed individuals can apply for unemployment benefits in-person as well as through the Internet. When you visit Web sites dedicated to helping people collect unemployment benefits, look for information on physical locations to which you can go and apply. Sites that display such information for physical locations have a much higher tendency to be legitimate, and the best way to ensure that you are applying to the government rather than simply giving information to an illegitimate third party is to apply at the location listed rather than through the Internet.

Even when they can apply in-person, many people prefer to apply online because it is faster or easier to do – and because waiting in line is not necessary. Even if this is the case for you, you may consider going to the location listed on the website and validating that it is a government facility and that the website is connected to it. You can do this by asking a government employee at the facility or by looking at the banners, posters, and pamphlets displayed there, as these usually have information regarding the government’s official unemployment benefit website.

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