NOTTINGHAM, MD—The Maryland Department of State Police and the Maryland Department of Labor are warning the public of an increase in unemployment insurance related fraud cases and other scams being reported in the region.
In recent months, investigators have been contacted regarding a wide variety of schemes targeting individuals, vulnerable populations, charities and local, state and national government agencies. Most recently, this included a scheme where random citizens received multiple unemployment insurance debit cards that they never applied for from the state and even from other states.
Another recent fraud involved gift cards, which primarily targeted the elderly population. Most often, consumers were told that they needed to purchase gift cards to use as payments for a government agency bill, a ransom, a utility bill, tech support, or to avoid an arrest. The reasons they presented varied, but they always came back to the idea that a consumer must go to a retail outlet, purchase physical gift cards, and then provide the PIN numbers on the cards to the scammer. Reports suggest scammers favored certain brands of gift cards and those changed over time.
Additional trending frauds include ones that target Medicare recipients, lotteries, banks, charities, those seeking COVID-19 vaccinations and ones that claimed were connected to the Census. Despite the variety of frauds out there, there are simple steps everyone can take to minimize their chances of becoming a victim.
Avoiding unemployment insurance scams
The Maryland State Police and the Maryland Department of Labor have been alerted to a number of potential scam operations that are attempting to prey on unemployment insurance claimants. To help distinguish between legitimate assistance from Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance (MDUI) staff and fraudulent assistance from a potential scammer, remember the following:
- MDUI will never request or require payment for assistance with unemployment insurance, especially not through apps like Venmo or Cashapp.
- MDUI staff will not provide assistance to claimants through direct message on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.
- MDUI will never arrange for an adjudication or fact-finding interview over any teleconferencing platform, such as Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangout Meets, or Skype.
- MDUI does not provide assistance through text message and will not send any links asking a claimant to verify their account through text.
- MDUI will never ask for your bank account number or credit card number over e-mail.
- MDUI will never request your BEACON password over e-mail.
- All e-mails from legitimate MDUI staff will come from a @maryland.gov e-mail address.
- Do not provide any sensitive information related to your Maryland unemployment insurance claim by e-mail unless it is to a @maryland.gov e-mail address.
Avoiding scams on social media
Please be aware of pages and scammers on social media pretending to be the Maryland Department of Labor. Scammers are replicating the Maryland Department of Labor’s social media pages, directly messaging claimants, and attempting to steal their identity by asking for their personal information. These pages are particularly targeting members of unemployment groups on Facebook.
Fraudulent pages may look similar, but are newly created, do not have a lengthy history of posts, spelled differently (often with typos), and not verified with a blue check mark. “Maryland department of labour” is an example of a fraudulent page that looks similar, but is spelled differently. If you find a fraudulent page, please report it to the social media platform immediately and DO NOT respond to their messages.
Links to the Maryland Department of Labor’s official government agency social media pages can be found below:
When should you report identity theft to the police?
- When your bank or other business requires you to make a report.
- You know the person who stole your identity.
- Make the report to your local police department or state police barrack.
Tips to protect yourself from scams in general:
- Do not give out your personal information to someone you do not know.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Do not carry your social security card in your wallet.
- Collect mail every day and put a hold on it during extended travel.
- Use security features on your smartphone and computer.
- Use complex passwords.
- Do not use gift cards to pay the IRS or Social Security, tech support, a family member in trouble, ransom or to avoid arrest or deportation or to prevent your utilities from being turned off.
Use these links to help report fraud that is not reported to the police:
If you suspect a fraud, contact your local police department. You may also report unemployment fraud by visiting https://www.MDunemployment.com.