State still battling scammers in unemployment claims | Western Colorado | #phishing | #scams

While the state’s unemployment rate has remained unchanged for the third month in a row, the department that oversees the unemployment insurance program is preparing new procedures to help fight scams.

Because of a rising number of scammers trying to get personal information from those still receiving unemployment checks, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment plans to install a new security protocol for those receiving aid.

Like banks and other online secure networks, the department is implementing a new “multi-factor authentication” system early next month.

That system will require all unemployment insurance recipients not only to have a highly secure password that claimants already use to to file for weekly benefits, but also will have to input a special code that would be sent to them personally each time they do so.

Phil Spesshardt, director of the department’s unemployment insurance division, said what’s happening right now is that scammers are contacting recipients directly either by email, text messaging or a department authentication app in attempts to get their personal information so they can steal their checks.

Those messages usually come in official-looking formats and often include websites that further attempt to solicit someone’s Social Security Number or unemployment benefits log-in information.

When those scammers get that information, they will go into someone’s MyUI+ unemployment insurance benefits account and alter how they are being paid, sending those weekly checks to bank accounts that they control.

“This problem isn’t going away,” Spesshardt said. “It’s increasing in frequency. We continue to see phishing text messages and emails going out claiming to be us, pressuring claimants to click on their link and enter in their MyUI plus log-in credentials. Claimants should not click on these links.”

Spesshardt said no one is immune. His own sister was sent such a text message, he said.

“CDLE does not text claimants, and we especially do not text claimants any links of any kind,” added Daniel Chase, chief of staff for the department.

The department also said that there is no evidence that claimants are choosing to continue to receive unemployment benefits rather than return to the workforce because they can earn more, saying it is considered fraud subject to losing all benefits if anyone does so.

The department announced that new security step Friday when releasing the last monthly unemployment figures.

Those figures show that while the state’s unemployment rate remained at 6.2% in June, unemployment figures in the six-county region increased in the past month.

Here, Mesa County saw the largest increase, going from 6% in May to 6.9% last month.

While Rio Blanco County saw the second largest month-over-month increase in June, 5.9% from 5.2%, other counties in the region had increases of about 0.2% over the month.

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