COVID-19 Unemployment Identity Theft Cases on the Rise

COVID-19 Unemployment Identity Theft Cases on the Rise

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the entire employment image in America. Have you or a loved one needed to reach out to your state unemployment office due to being out of work (or experiencing a massive reduction in work hours)? As if that process wasn’t difficult enough! Unfortunately, many have experienced the shock and dismay when their unemployment claim is turned down for benefits due to a duplicate application. It is happening … and way too often. Hackers live for mankind’s vulnerability, especially during trying times like this.

 

We understand that it’s hard to know what you need to know especially during immense stress. The following are the five most common unemployment scams that we would like for you to be aware of:

 

Phishing email scams. Be wary of a sender you don’t know even if there are familiar logos visible in the email. Just because the email says it’s coming from your former employer’s CEO, doesn’t mean that it is legit. Verify the sender via phone before you trust the information that they are providing. If no one is available to verify it via a call … it’s a scam.

 

Debit and direct deposit card scams. Hackers know that states may use debit cards or payments via direct deposit to deliver benefits to you. If you are asked to provide personal identifying information (PII), such as date of birth, social security number, and/or bank account information before you actually apply for a card … it’s a scam. We have seen unemployment debit card scams that end up charging the victim for inactivity.

 

Fake phone call scams. The Department of Labor suggests to only use official government websites and phone numbers to file a claim for unemployment benefits. If someone calls you before you reach out for help … it’s a scam.

 

Jobseeker scams. If anyone is interested in hiring you immediately because you are the “perfect” candidate for a position you haven’t sought out … it’s a scam.

 

Fake job board website scams. If a website asks you to pre-register and give them your bank account information for your first paycheck … it’s a scam.

 

Here are some tips to help avoid unemployment benefit scams:

 

– Do not respond to unsolicited emails and texts. A state will not try to reach you and certainly won’t via text message.

 

– Do not click any type of website link even if it looks like it’s from one of your financial institutions. Scammers are really sneaky. Read our blog Do Not Click! for more information.

 

– Monitor your accounts closely. If an identity thief has enough information to apply (and receive) your benefits, it’s a pretty solid bet that they have information on your other accounts. Update your passwords, which is a step to take even not during a pandemic.

 

– Help keep your PII safe by making sure you’re dealing with a legitimate government representative.

 

 

Interested in learning how to file unemployment benefits in your state? Check this map, select the state where you worked, and you will be directed to the appropriate contact information. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

The Quick Rise of Phishing Scams – Do Not Click!

Many of us have been experiencing much more free time on our hands, which is great if you enjoy the sport of fishing, have a pile of books to read or Netflix shows to catch up on. Unless you are on the front line, life, as we know it during this pandemic, has forced the majority of us to slow down.

 

Our ‘new normal’ environment is a breeding ground for scammers to take advantage of you and your identity. Last month we wrote several blogs that specifically discussed the various types of coronavirus scams we had been witnessing. Check out Coronavirus Scams Are on the Rise, And More Coronavirus Scams, and Working From Home Cybersecurity Tips if interested in a quick refresher course or two.

 

Over the last two weeks we have seen a 70% increase in email phishing scams during this pandemic, which has undoubtedly touched every facet of our lives. These phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are even creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments. Don’t fall for any of it … but, in case you do, we suggest that you read our blog from October 2019 Accidentally Clicked on a Phishing Link – Now What?.

 

Today our advice is very simple: If you are not 100% certain of the origin of the email and/or link that you are being asked to click on … DO NOT CLICK. If for some reason you accidentally do click, there are some imperative steps to take to alleviate harm to you and/or the network you may be connected with:

 

– Try not to panic. This happens to everyone. Antivirus and anti-malware will come into play and you will need to have a full system scan. But first …

 

– End the session immediately by turning off Wi-Fi, unplugging from an ethernet cable or completely shutting down all of your devices.

 

– Initiate a back up of your files. Since you won’t be connected to the internet at this point, you won’t be able to accomplish this to the cloud. Having an external drive, DVD or thumb drive are always nice to have on hand during times like these.

 

– Change your login/password to email account(s) and enable two-factor authentication if this hasn’t already occurred.

 

– If you are employed by a company or organization, reference your manual and let your network administrator know of the potential issue.

 

– After all is said and done, check your antivirus/anti-malware software and run a full scan.

 

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does. Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Zoombombing … the New Social Distancing Phenomenon

Video calls have gone from a novelty to a necessity practically overnight. The term ‘social distancing’ and the app, Zoom, have both become household names as millions of people are being forced to stay home to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The desire to stay connected with our loved ones and friends during this difficult time has sparked creative ways to virtually stay social through video birthday parties, happy hours, trivia nights, yoga sessions, and even weddings. CNBC reported this week that “the [Zoom] app has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18 … daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.”

 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom, a privately-held company headquartered in San Jose, CA, was used mostly for web conferencing webinars. Now it is being used by 90,000 schools across 20 countries. But, there are online security issues with the app and school districts have started to ban Zoom because of them. Why? Because of ‘Zoombombing,’ a phenomenon where uninvited guests (pranksters) join Zoom calls and broadcast porn or shock videos. How? Due to Zoom’s default settings, which don’t require a password to set a meeting and allow any participant to share their screen. Most Zoom meetings have a public link that, if clicked, allow anyone to join.

 

The Verge just reported that “Zoom adjusted their default settings for education accounts last week in an effort to increase security and privacy for meetings.” They also noted, “For everyone else, you’ll need to tweak your Zoom settings to ensure this never happens.” The process isn’t very simple…

 

If you schedule a meeting from the web interface, you won’t see the option to disable screen sharing. Instead:

 – Click on “Settings” in the left-hand menu

– Scroll down to “Screen Sharing” and under “Who Can Share?” click “Host Only”

– Click on “Save”

 

If you forget to change the setting before you start your meeting, there’s a way to modify your settings after it starts:

 – Once your Zoom meeting is running, click the caret to the right of the green “Share Screen” button in the center of the bottom row of icons

– Click “Advanced Sharing Options”

– A dialog box will pop up allowing you to switch screen sharing availability from all participants to the “Only Host”


Yes, these are very confusing times. Stay strong and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

 

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Working from Home Cybersecurity Tips

Coronavirus has forced millions of Americans to work remotely from their homes. Although working from home helps with social (physical) distancing by preventing the spread of COVID-19, there are many new challenges that have come with teleworking. For example, many states have closed schools for weeks, and for some, the entire rest of the school year. Parents may be juggling work while their children are learning remotely. You may find yourself becoming an expert with practicing mindfulness along with new software and conferencing programs, such as Zoom and GoToMeetings (or if you aren’t, your children blessedly are).

 

As we are being forced to slow down the pace of everyday life, we recognize that a lot of good can come out of this time. But, on the other side of the coin, there is the growing opportunity for cybercriminals to trick us into forking over passwords during this learning transitional period. Reuters reported last week that “some researchers have found hackers masquerading as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a bid to break into emails or swindle users out of bitcoin, while others have spotted hackers using a malicious virus-themed app to hijack Android phones.” Our blogs last week provided some details on these new scams.

 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some tips to help protect your devices and personal information while working from home:

Start with cybersecurity basics. Keep your security software up-to-date. Use passwords on all your devices and apps. Make sure the passwords are long, strong and unique. The FTC suggests using at least 12 characters that are a mix of numbers, symbols and capital and lowercase letters.

Secure your home network by starting with your router. Turn on encryption (WPA2 or WPA3), which scrambles information sent over your network so outsiders can’t read it. If no WPA2 or WPA3 options are available with your current router, considering replacing your router altogether.

Keep an eye on your laptop and make sure it is password-protected, locked when you aren’t using it and secure. We suggest that it is never unattended, such as out in plain sight in a vehicle. Even if your doors are locked, windows can easily be broken.

Securely store your physical files. Strong physical security is an important part of cybersecurity. If you don’t have a file cabinet at home that is lockable, consider using a locked room. Read this blog by the FTC to learn more tips about physical security.

Dispose of sensitive data securely. Invest in a shredder if you don’t already have one. Throwing paperwork you no longer need in the garbage or recycling bin can be a treasure for a pirate especially if it includes personal information about customers, vendors or employees.

Follow your employer’s security practices. Since your home is now an extension of your office, make sure that you understand the protocols that your employer has implemented.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 888,966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

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And More Coronavirus Scams …

And More Coronavirus Scams …

We are monitoring updates surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic around the clock. This environment is a breeding ground for scams to take advantage of you and your identity. Rest assured that we are here to help and will communicate with you every step of the way.

 

The following is the latest information that we know of regarding coronavirus scams:

 

– The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent warning letters to seven sellers of scam coronavirus treatments. The FTC reported that “So far all of the companies have made big changes to their advertising to remove unsupported claims.” That is good news. But, scammers never take a break.

 

– Anyone can set up an e-commerce site and claim they have in-demand products. Be on the lookout for online ads that tout cleaning, household and health/medical supplies. Just because they have a website and you pay money doesn’t mean that you will receive any goods in return. The FTC suggests that you check out any seller by searching online for the person or company name, phone number and email address along with keywords such as “review,” “complaint” or “scam.”

 

– Anyone can also set up a fake charity to take advantage of a major health crisis. These scammers take advantage of your generosity and have names that are extremely close to the names of real charities. The FTC remarked that “Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.” We suggest that you visit http://www.ftc.gov/charity to help you research charities. Also, if/when you do give, pay safely by credit card and never by gift card or wire transfer.

 

– As well, anyone can pretend to be someone you know. “Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information – like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.” If you accidentally click on a link, they can get access to your computer, network and/or install ransomware and other programs on your equipment that can lock you out. Please protect your smart phone and computer by keeping your software up to date and using multi-factor authentication. Backing up your data on a regular basis is also recommended.

 

– Surprisingly robocalls “pitching everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes” are still in full force. Do not answer unless the call shows up as a contact in your phone. Let voicemail filter your messages. For more information on robocalls, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls.

 

We understand that all of this is indeed nerve-wracking. One of the great things about our business is that we are always working in the moment … situations such as the coronavirus do not rattle our operations and team members. Not only do we have a team at a centralized location, but we have also always worked remotely. We will continue to be available for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We hope that this gives you some peace of mind knowing that we are on top of this crisis and will continue to communicate any dangerous scams related to the outbreak as soon as possible.

 

As always, please contact us immediately if you have any concerns at 888.966.GUARD (4827) or memberservices@guardwellid.com.

 

 

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

Coronavirus Scams are on the Rise

COVID-19 is a breeding ground for scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has alerted consumers that scammers are taking advantage of the panic and fear surrounding the global pandemic. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information,” remarked Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC. There are also malicious apps being developed, one of which is an Android tracker app that supposedly allows users to keep an eye on the spread of the virus, but locks victims’ phone and demands money to unlock it.

 

Phishing scams may come across as emails and/or posts promoting coronavirus awareness. These messages will often offer prevention tips on how to stay well, what the symptoms of the virus may include and what to do in case you or a family member feel ill. Some are creating fake “cases” of COVID-19 in your neighborhood so you feel more inclined to help out. “They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.” Don’t fall for it.

 

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

– Do not click on any links from sources you do not know. Doing so could download a virus on your equipment.

– Be on the lookout for phishing emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC will not email you. The World Health Organization (WHO) will not email you either.

– Ignore offers for vaccinations. Many ads exist touting prevention, treatment, and cure claims. They are not legitimate.

– Do not donate cash, purchase gift cards, or wire money without investigating the request in full. See the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams” for more information.

– The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about false “investment opportunities.” Be aware of online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

 

Be smart. Be vigilant. Be strong. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help. We are available 24/7/365 for you and your family members at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) and memberservices@guardwellid.com.

Cincinnati Business Courier HR Forum Postponed

Cincinnati Business Courier HR Forum Postponed

The Cincinnati Business Courier is postponing its HR Forum originally scheduled for March 31st. “Our primary goal is to protect the health of attendees and those working the event, so postponing it in light of the spread of the COVID-19 virus is the appropriate decision at this time,” said Cincinnati Business Courier Market President Jamie Smith. “We’ll announce the new date as soon as possible and look forward to hosting people at future events.”

 

Our Founder and CEO, E. Allan Hilsinger, is one of three industry experts for the human resources live panel, which includes Deidre Bird, Director of HR Consulting, VonLehman CPA & Advisory Firm and Justin Flamm, Partner and Co-Chair Employment and Labor Relations Practice Group, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

 

We will announce the new date on our social media channels once it is determined. All attendee tickets will be valid for the rescheduled date.