FBI officials began sounding the alarm on a wave of scams, including unemployment fraud, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, concerns have only grown as new levels of fraud are uncovered across the United States.
During the pandemic, about 50% of unemployment claims, or $400 billion, may have gone to scammers, according to a recent report by Axios. In Maryland alone, nearly 300,000 fraudulent claims have been paid to scammers, according to the online dating investigation site Social Catfish. So far, the Secret Service has recovered $2 billion worth of unemployment fraud, but as the economy recovers, this kind of crime is expected to continue.
The most common scams targeting unemployment claims include spoofing scams — when caller ID is used to make a phone number look like it’s from a legitimate business. Investment fraud, identity theft and extortion are widespread. Romance scams are also used to target potential victims.
To avoid becoming a victim, video chat or plan to meet up in a safe location before starting an online relationship and always verify a business before sharing personal information. Do your research on online investment opportunities claiming huge returns and never send money to people you meet over the internet.