Phishing calls have been a ubiquitous part of life since I first held the receiver of a rotary phone. While it might seem easy to make jokes about the outlandishness of identity thieves’ tactics, the reality is that these scams persist for one simple reason: They’re effective.
Unfortunately, every communication platform now feels inundated by phishing scams—even our private text messages. Worse than phishing calls, these texts mean an accidental tap of your screen could result in downloading a virus. When so many use their mobile device as a hub for basically everything, that presents a big risk.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission is warning that phishing texts are now targeting unemployment recipients.
What is the latest unemployment benefits text scam?
The FTC warns that taxpayers are receiving text messages that appear to be from a state workforce agency. While the agency notes there are more than a half-dozen reported versions of the message, these texts say recipients need to verify their identity in order to receive unemployment benefits. Predictably, all include a link to a fake SWA website designed to trick visitors into providing “personal information, like your Social Security number,” which “fraudsters can use … to file fraudulent UI benefits claims or for other identity theft.”
Will a State Workforce Agency contact unemployment recipients by text message?
“Know that state agencies do not send text messages asking for personal information,” the FTC says. “If you get an unsolicited text or email message that looks like it’s from an SWA, don’t reply or click any link. If you’re not sure, contact the SWA directly using the State Directory for Reporting Unemployment Identity Theft at the bottom of this United States Department of Labor webpage.”
What should I do if I click on the link in the phishing text?
The FTC recommends that those who click on the link and enter their information go to IdentityTheft.gov and follow the provided instructions for victims of identity theft scams.
Finally, remember to report phishing scams to the appropriate agency; these reports are how the FTC is able to warn us about specific scams that are in the wild. The type of scam being perpetrated dictates where you need to go to report suspicious messages:
- National Center for Disaster Fraud for SWA-related scams
- FTC.gov for general consumer scams
- Phishing@IRS.gov for IRS-related scams
Visit the FTC.gov link below to read more about this latest scam and to see pictures of reported text messages.