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VERIFY: How to identify unemployment scams and avoid them

Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. are breaking down their tips for avoiding unemployment scams.

WASHINGTON — A viewer reached out to the Verify team asking about an email she received after applying for unemployment. She thought the email was odd, because it had the headline "New ZixCorp Secure email message from the Government of District of Columbia."

The viewer also thought it was suspicious that the email address was "DCGov.Notification@zixmessagecenter.com." 

"Can you verify that they're legit?" the viewer asked in a video message sent to the Verify team. "And work for the District of Columbia."

To find the truth, the Verify team reached out to the DC Department of Employment Services. This agency confirmed that the email was not a scam.

"The District uses Zix as an email encryption tool," the agency said in a statement. 

While that email did not prove to be a scam, it illustrates that a lot of people are concerned about possible scams. To find tips about avoiding unemployment scams, the Verify team reached out to the employment offices in Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

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Credit: Verify Team Viewer
A Verify team viewer sent in this email, asking if it was a scam. Turns out it's legit.

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Tips from the Maryland Department of Labor: 

When filing for unemployment in Maryland, one should expect to give sensitive information, including social security number, address, phone number and date of birth. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor told the Verify team that this information will be required early in the process. 

"When an initial claim is filed, they will need to provide this information," a statement read. "Additionally the SSN is used to log-on to file a weekly claim certification." 

The statement also offered a warning about certain sites that "advertise that they can assist claimants in filing for unemployment benefits." These sites can often be scams, targeting your sensitive information. 

"Only use official government websites and phone numbers to file a claim for unemployment benefits," the statement read. 

To file for unemployment in Maryland, one should visit mdunemployment.com and select "apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits." It's also safe to call one of the claim centers at 410-949-0022. 

The Department of Labor spokesperson emphasized that there is not a fee to file for unemployment benefits. 

"If you get a phone call from someone representing themselves as being from the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance telling you that you need to pay to file for unemployment benefits, do not give any information to the caller or send money." 

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Tips from the Virginia Employment Commission:

A spokesperson for the Virginia Employment Commission told the Verify team that one should expect to provide sensitive information like social security number, address and wages when filing for unemployment. 

The VEC said this process should only be done on their website VEC.Virginia.Gov. Virginians can also call the VEC at 866-832-2363. 

A spokesperson for the VEC told the Verify team that it is recommended to use the website, since there have been long waits for those trying to file by phone. 

The VEC also warned of scams that have targeted those filing for unemployment. The VEC said that scammers have created fake websites with legitimate-sounding names to try and steal information from those filing. Earlier this year, a local newspaper in Southwest Virginia even linked to a fake website, because it was so convincing. 

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Tips from the DC Department of Employment Services:

In a statement, a spokesperson for the DC Department of Employment Services said people should only file for unemployment on their website, dcnetworks.org or by calling 202-724-7000. Other sources should not be trusted. 

The Department may also contact claimants by email, phone or mail to "request documentation necessary to process their claim," the spokesperson said. 

All email requests from the Department will come from a D.C. government email, ending in "@dc.gov" or an encrypted email, ending in "@zixmessagecenter.com." 

"Please do not trust any communication originating from other addresses," the spokesperson said. 

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