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6 Things to Know About Fake Unemployment Websites

Beware unsolicited texts or emails encouraging you to apply for jobless benefits online

Woman applying for unemployment benefits

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En español | The U.S. Department of Justice says it has received reports about fraudsters creating sham websites with information about unemployment benefits.

Some phony sites mimic state workforce agency websites. The goals of the bad actors behind the fakery are to capture peoples’ personal information and commit identity theft, officials say.

Millions of Americans hit by coronavirus-driven layoffs and business closures have turned to collecting jobless benefits and, despite some progress on the labor front, the unemployment rate still stands well above pre-pandemic levels.

6 key points

Here are six key things to know about the fake unemployment websites, according to DOJ's March 4 warning.

1. Fraudsters are sending spam text messages and emails purporting to be from a state workforce agency and containing a link to lure consumers to the fake websites.

2. The sham websites are designed to trick consumers into thinking they are applying for unemployment benefits and into disclosing personally identifiable information PII and other sensitive data. Examples of PII include your date of birth, Social Security number, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

3. Consumers should never click on links in text messages or emails claiming to be from a state workforce agency offering an opportunity to apply for unemployment insurance benefits — unless the link is from a known, verified source.

4. Here is a list of actual state workforce agency websites.

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5. Schemes that use links embedded in unsolicited text messages and emails to obtain PII are called "phishing” schemes. Phishing messages may look like they come from government agencies, financial institutions, shipping companies and social media platforms, among many others. Carefully examine any message purporting to be from a company and do not click on a link in an unsolicited email or text message.

6. Remember: Companies generally do not contact you to ask for your username or password. When in doubt, contact the entity supposedly sending you the message, but do not rely on any contact information in a potentially fraudulent message.

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

Katherine Skiba covers scams and fraud for AARP. Previously she was a reporter with the Chicago TribuneU.S. News & World Report, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was a recipient of Harvard University's Nieman Fellowship and is the author of the book, Sister in the Band of Brothers: Embedded with the 101st Airborne in Iraq.

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