INDIANAPOLIS — 13 Investigates has spent months reporting on massive fraud impacting Indiana’s unemployment assistance programs. But is the state now reaching out to contact people about that fraud—or are Hoosiers being targeted by yet another scam?
Over the past week, VERIFY been getting lots of questions about text messages supposedly originating from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The messages are asking recipients to click on a link to verify their identity so they can continue to get unemployment payments.
Viewers like Chris Jackson are understandably skeptical, writing to VERIFY to ask “Is this real?” Other people have also flagged the text messages as suspicious, especially because they live out of state or have never applied for unemployment benefits in Indiana.
- Indiana Department of Workforce Development
- FBI Indianapolis bureau
What we discovered
VERIFY heard from dozens of people who all got similar unexpected text messages. Those messages, shared with 13News, say “Due to numerous number of fraud claims, we request you to verify your identity at [clickable link] to be eligible for unemployment payment.”
Indiana DWD, which runs the state’s unemployment assistance programs, insists it did not send the messages.
“DWD will never attempt to contact a claimant via text message,” confirmed DWD media director Scott Olson.
The agency also posted the following information on its website, requesting that individuals who receive the text message quickly report it to the agency:
As a reminder, DWD WILL NOT send claimants a text message. If you receive a text from someone claiming to be us, do NOT click on the link. Clicking the link could give fraudsters access to information on your phone which could then allow them to take over your UI account. If you receive a text, please immediately email the DWD Contact Center: AskUIContactCenter@dwd.IN.gov.
Because so many people have received the bogus texts, the FBI’s Indianapolis office issued a separate warning, classifying this as a “text scam.” The FBI is also urging anyone who gets the text to not click on the link, which could allow scammers access to personal data.
“This is yet another example of the explosion of fraud related to COVID and we know hundreds of Hoosiers have been affected so far by this particular scam,” FBI special agent Spencer Brooks said in a press release.
The FBI says scammers have already hijacked more than $120,000 in state unemployment benefits through these text scams.
While 13News reported the FBI’s warning last week when it was first issued, viewers have continued to write VERIFY to ask about the legitimacy of the text messages.
So, if you get a text that claims to be from Indiana DWD asking you to click on a link to verify your identity, don’t fall for it. We can verify the text is a FALSE claim disguised as a real communication from DWD, designed to steal your personal information.
The FBI and data security experts recommend you should never click on a link in a text or email that comes from someone you don't recognize, and never share your personal information with someone who contacts you out of the blue.
If you see something suspicious you’d like the 13News VERIFY team to check out, send us an email at VERIFY@wthr.com.