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Attorney General warns about scams for unemployment benefits

NEW YORK — Attorney General Letitia James is warning state residents about new, recently reported scams using New Yorkers’ personal information to file fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits.

“We must remain vigilant about potential scams and ensure residents remain alert,” James said. “During these uncertain times, unemployment benefits are a safety net for many individuals and families who have lost their jobs. To exploit the use of these funds and overload a system that is already processing unprecedented numbers of claims per day is as shameful as it is illegal.”

There have been recent reports of scammers having access to detailed databases with personally identifiable information. Armed with personally identifiable information, scammers have sought out cooperation from “mules” who are used as intermediaries for filing claims online seeking benefits, exploiting the avalanche of legitimate claims that have hit the state Department of Labor due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Individuals who have been contacted by the state Department of Labor about unemployment benefits they did not apply for must be aware of the possibility of identity theft. For more specific information about how to protect one’s identity, visit the Attorney General’s website at ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/identity-theft.

James highlights the following tips for New Yorkers to protect themselves from these scams:

¯ Be suspicious of anyone who calls over the phone seeking money or personal information. Those who owe money will receive a legitimate notice in writing that identifies the agency and the reason the money is owed.

¯ Do not give out personal and sensitive information, including a Social Security number and bank account information, to individuals over the phone. In addition, ensure to independently verify the authenticity of the caller.

Victims of unemployment benefits fraud should report any incidents to their employer and to the state Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Program. Victims can also file a complaint online with the Office of the Attorney General or call 1-800-771-7755.

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