Scammers take advantage of unemployed

September 25, 2008 8:42:36 PM PDT
With the jobless rate creeping-up, the scammers are crawling out to take advantage. They're preying on people who lost their jobs with a scheme involving unemployment benefits.

It's a sign of the times in California. An unemployment rate approaching eight percent means long lines at state-sponsored job fairs, more competition for each position, and pressure to make ends meet.

"I want to file to get unemployment," said Sandy Weiss.

These trying times are also an opportunity for scammers. Weiss has never been out of work until this past summer. The former dental office worker went online for benefits she may be entitled to.

"I clicked on filing for unemployment," said Weiss.

Then she clicked on "Live Help."

"That's where my scam began," said Weiss.

Her online "helper" asked for a credit card number to help file for unemployment.

"I'm unemployed. I can't afford to pay to file for unemployment," said Weiss.

Sandy reported the website to her local Employment Development Department where she learned she's not alone.

"It's bad enough the economy is having its own struggles, but to turn around and get somebody at their lowest point," said Weiss.

"We've heard them charging as much as $20 to help someone fill out an application, and then another up to $3 as part of every check they collect. EDD is the official administrator of the unemployment insurance program in California. And we do not charge for this service. That's the last thing people need when they're unemployed," says Loree Levy, from the California Employment Development Department.

Some of these websites are also claiming they have a way to process unemployment benefits faster. The state says that's simply not true.

Luckily, for Sandy she stopped short of giving any of those websites her credit card.

"Holy Cow! What if I gave them my credit card? What would they do with it? How far would they go with it?" asked Weiss.

Still, there are 1.4 million Californians looking for work, many for the first time. That inexperience makes them prime targets for scammers.

To file unemployment: www.edd.ca.gov


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