OAKLAND, Calif. - A new round of deceiving text messages are popping up on cell phones, sent by scammers claiming to be from the California EDD or Bank of America.
In recent weeks, several Californians tell KTVU they’ve received phishing scam texts that attempt to get pin, debit card numbers, or account information related to unemployment benefits.
"I was already apprehensive of it because I’m not even on unemployment anymore," Jessica Cancel of Stockton said. "It’s evil because why would you want to do that to a normal person?"
It’s not new. But California’s Employment Development Department warned the sophisticated schemes are still trying to trick people into clicking a link that takes them to a website that may look legitimate.
Cancel admitted she clicked that link, which took her to a page with a Bank of America logo and asked for a debit card number, the expiration date, security code, and ATM pin.
"The address that’s on the top is ROFL dot LOL, so rolling on the floor laughing dot LOL, laugh out loud," she said. "I knew this doesn’t sound right."
EDD text messages only link to websites that include "edd.ca.gov".
While Cancel didn’t fall victim to the phishing scam, others may unsuspectingly be caught hook, line, and sinker.
Since the start of the pandemic, $181 billion has been paid out in unemployment insurance payments.
A chunk of that has gone to fraudsters, according to former EDD Director Michael Bernick.
Bernick has been in close contact with officials at the EDD since the pandemic began, keeping an eye on claims, rampant fraud and department challenges.
"We’ve seen the enormous amount of money washing through the system," he said. "I think that’s the new normal in government benefits."
The EDD has put new identity safeguards in place over the last year, which has prevented some fraud.
The weekly backlog of claims has greatly reduced from close to 200,000 last year to roughly 6,000 now.
The EDD warned Californians to be on alert with several tips.
- Never click a link in an unexpected text message
- Messages asking to reactivate a debit card are scams
- Verify if an EDD text message is legitimate by logging onto "UI Online"
- Call Bank of America using the phone number on the back of the debit card to confirm bank-related messages
- Do not respond to suspicious text messages
- EDD only sends text messages from the number 510-74 or 918-06
Californians who receive suspicious cell phone or email phishing communications should report those scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Phishing emails can be forwarded to the FTC’s Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org and phishing text messages can be forwarded to the FTC at 7726. You can also call the EDD Fraud Hotline at 1-800-229-6297.