EAST ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — East Rochester resident Shannon Connell receives unemployment as a freelance wedding planner and mother.
She got a text message earlier this month from a 313 number – appearing to be from the State Department of Labor. Even though this link looked identical to the state site, and had “dot gov” in the url, it was fraudulent.
The text read: “Because of fraudulent activity happening, we need you to update some info on our website, if you don’t we will stop payment.”
Connell felt tempted to act right away, because she had an experience a year ago where she stopped getting payments mysteriously, later finding out it was a hiccup in the system. She thought it might be a way to avoid a repeat of that scenario, and entered her information without thinking twice.
The hackers were too skilled – the link Connell described looked the same as the state website she goes to fill out forms normally.
“Same exact login page – and about 10 people I know had the same issue – they [hackers] just put a screen over a screen,” she said.
When Connell wasn’t getting payments anymore, she knew something was up.
With help from her bank and an identity protection program (LifeLock), Connell was able to secure her accounts. In the process she found out the criminal attempted to do her taxes, opened a $10,000 credit card, hacked into her amazon account, and a flight was mysteriously canceled.
Melanie McGovern with Better Business Bureau says report these incidents right away if they happen to you – so others can find reports online and be made aware.
She emphasized – do your own research before ever giving away information. Instead of calling a number that’s written on a mailed-letter or email asking for information, go directly to the business or company website to verify contact information. If it’s a website link, the “.gov” shouldn’t be in the middle of a url, but rather in the end.
“Reporting it is the first step in letting people know that it’s happening we have our scam tracker people can report scams to, if we see something we think is criminal in nature or if we see a pattern, the same scam over and over in an area, we will reach out to law enforcement and let them know definitely report it to FBI, ic3.gov,” she said.
She says while a lot of hackers tackle the internet – don’t rule out the trash can. Make sure you’re destroying any bills or sensitive information before you toss it. Also pay attention when you’re online shopping, and going over your W2 to make sure taxes are correct.
Connell is doubtful her hacker will ever get caught – but her priority now – is informing the public to be aware.
“If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone,” she said.
Connell has not received her unemployment back – and says about $4,000 was lost in the fraud.
The state released an identity verification tool back in February, to use to fight unemployment fraud, and speed up the process of claims.