ALERT: Beware of Unemployment Fraud
The recent increase in unemployment claims caused by the COVID-19 crisis has given criminals a new opportunity to strike. State and federal officials have received multiple reports of fraudsters using sensitive personal information obtained from previous data breaches to file for unemployment benefits on behalf of Maine residents.
They then impersonate an individual who has not been laid off to file false claims on their behalf. In some cases, the fraudster will direct the funds to go to an online bank, a bank account that they designate, or the persons actual bank. In cases where it goes to a person’s actual bank account, the fraudster will then call the person to try to deceive them in transferring the money to them.
If you believe that someone has used your identity to file a fraudulent unemployment claim, please notify us immediately so we can put a note on your account. You should also notify the Maine Department of Labor as soon as possible: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself from scams:
- Limit the amount of personal information you provide, such as your Social Security Number, bank account number, or debit/credit card number, via email or over the phone
- Monitor your bank accounts regularly for suspicious activity. If you receive unemployment funds that you did not apply for, call Biddeford Savings/Mechanics Savings immediately
- Consider placing a freeze on your credit by visiting each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to prevent unauthorized access to your credit report. You can also request to be notified any time someone attempts to establish new credit in your name. For more information, you may visit the Maine Credit Freeze Fact Sheet.
- Do not respond to phone calls or text messages from unknown or suspicious numbers
- Be cautious when clicking on links or attachments in emails. If you were not expecting the email, do not open any link or attachment
For more information on reporting identity theft and developing a recovery plan, please visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/.
Beware of SBA Paycheck Protection Program Scams
We’ve received reports from Paycheck Protection (PPP) applicants who have received emails that appear to be coming from the Small Business Administration, asking for the applicant to download documents for printing and signing.
If you applied for a PPP loan, your lender will provide the necessary documentation using secure email and will collect the completed and signed documentation to submit to the SBA on your behalf.
Learn to spot scams
Scammers are always on the lookout for opportunities to trick people into providing their information, and the current pandemic is no exception. Stay alert when reading emails and text messages, and do your homework before making purchases or donations.
- If you’re shopping online, only purchase items from reputable sellers that you’re familiar with. Many online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t. In fact, Amazon recently shut down several thousand vendors who were selling essential items at grossly inflated prices. Do your homework before clicking “add to cart”.
- If you receive a text message or an email about government stipends to help offset lost income during the Coronavirus pandemic, don’t respond. The economic stimulus details are still being finalized. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
Please visit the Federal Trade Commission website for additional information to help you avoid Coronavirus scams.
Protect Yourself from COVID-19 Scams
Maine Bankers Association and Maine Credit Union League put together tips to help you spot potential scams.