Unemployment Scams and COVID-19: How to Identify Scams and Protect Yourself
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If you’re one of the millions of Pinoys who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be urgently looking for ways to ease the financial pressure. The risk? You could become the victim of unemployment scams.
Scammers often prey on people with urgent financial needs. They might contact you by email or phone, pretending to provide the assistance you need. Instead, they are trying to collect your personal information and steal your money.
Scammers will try to fool you in different ways. Here are some common scams that you need to watch out for.
- Jobseeker Scams
Because so many Filipinos have lost their jobs and are looking for new employment, scammers often pretend to be potential employers. They may contact you by email or phone to trick you into believing that they have a job for you. Their real goal is to collect your personal information or to get money from you.
Here are some of the usual characteristics of jobseeker scams.
- Requests for personally identifiable information (e.g. your SSS number)
- Job offers that seem too good to be true
- References to a resume that you don’t post online
- Offers to pay you with bank account transfers (they could just be trying to get your account number)
- Offers to sell you something like a ‘starter kit’
- Jobs that require registration fees to get started
- Fake Website Scams
Fake websites have tried to fool victims into downloading malicious software or sharing personal information, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, fraudulent sites have popped up claiming to have useful resources, job offers, or that they can help you file your unemployment insurance claim. Before using or signing up for any website, make sure to check that it’s a legitimate and secure site. Scammers that use fake websites aim to collect as much personal information from you as they can get, and use it for financial gain.
- Phishing Email Scams
A common unemployment scam involves phishing emails. A phishing email is designed to look like it comes from a legitimate source. Scammers use phishing emails to trick you into sharing your personal information, such as your full name, SSS number, credit card information, and other sensitive data that could help them commit fraudulent activities.
The scam emails may claim to be from The Philippine Social Security System. The message might say that the unemployment benefits claim you filed is incomplete and you need to provide more information. Or the email may say that they can help you file your claim. The email may ask questions unrelated to you or your claim – that’s a red flag that the email is fake. Phishing emails may also ask you to click on a specific link. Once you do, it might take you to a fake site that asks for your personal information – or encourages you to click on another link that could download malicious software.
- Fake Phone Call Scams
Some scams involve fake communications via phone and text messages. Here’s how the scam works. The message may say that the applicant’s unemployment benefits account has been suspended. To reactivate the account, the applicant must call a number – which then asks for personal information like SSS number, credit card number, and PINs.
You may also receive a call or text message from a scammer pretending to be an employer looking to hire you. They may ask for your personal information, making it look like an ordinary over-the-phone interview. Before providing your information, make sure to check if the caller comes from a legitimate company. You can ask questions like what the company they are from and check it during the call – or ask them to call you back after you check their credentials.
How to Protect Yourself from Scams.
Here are steps you can take to help protect against unemployment scams.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited text messages or emails.
Never open any suspicious or unsolicited communications, whether it’s an email or a text message. Also, never download an attachment that’s unsolicited, even if it appears like it’s from someone you know.
- Be careful of ‘drive-by’ downloads.
Be careful not to visit websites that automatically install malware on your computer when you visit them. And this doesn’t just happen on fake websites – sometimes, legitimate websites get hacked and may be embedded with malicious code. The best way to protect against ‘drive-by’ downloads is to keep your computer’s software updated.
- Don’t give out your personal details to unofficial websites.
When looking for a job, you may end up visiting different websites where you’ll have to fill-out forms. Be careful when providing your personal information – make sure that the website you’re signing up for is legitimate and secure.
- Don’t give out your personal information over text message or email.
Never share sensitive information like your SSS number if you don’t absolutely have to. If you do share it, verify that the recipient is an official state representative. The same is true for PINs, bank account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive personal information.
Keep your security software updated.
If you mistakenly download malicious software or if you fall for a scam, your backup will be the security software installed on your computer and other devices. Make sure to regularly update your security software so it has the latest security patches. This will help protect your data and computer from malware, viruses, and other threats.