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Security & privacy

Fake government sites are impersonating real ones – Here’s how to spot them

There is no doubt that the pandemic has hit certain sectors of the economy hard. Plenty of companies struggled to make ends meet and to retain their usual level of staff. When that wasn’t possible, millions of Americans were furloughed.

With so many Americans out of work, unemployment became an economic savior. The uptick in unemployment claims led to scammers working overtime to steal the identity of those in need. Tap or click here for red flags someone stole your identity.

Now, a new trick to rip people off is spreading. Scammers are setting up fake government websites, hoping to steal your details and your money. Keep reading for ways to protect yourself.

Here’s the backstory

The FBI is warning that fake government websites have been popping up lately, claiming to help people with unemployment benefits. Here’s how the scam works: Cybercriminals create fraudulent versions of real government sites, but instead of helping, they steal financial data.

With minor changes to an actual URL or domain, criminals falsely replicate websites to look nearly identical to the official versions. An unsuspecting user might not notice subtle irregularities and enter their sensitive information, unaware of the looming danger.

“Cyber actors use this information to redirect unemployment benefits, harvest user credentials, collect personally identifiable information, and infect victim’s devices with malware,” the FBI explained in a press release.

The agency said that it had identified almost 400 domains hosted by the same IP address. Eight of them appear to impersonate government domains pertaining to unemployment benefits. Here is the list of questionable domains:

  • employ-nv[.]xyz
  • Employ-wiscon[.]xyz
  • gov2go[.]xyz
  • Illiform-gov[.]xyz
  • Mary-landgov[.]xyz
  • Marylandgov[.]xyz
  • Newstate-nm[.]xyz
  • Newstatenm[.]xyz

How to protect yourself from fake government sites

When visiting any website that requires you to sign in or divulge sensitive information, be cautious. There are a few ways to keep your personal information and finances protected. Here are suggestions from the FBI:

  • Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites, and email addresses to identify imitations.
  • Look for a padlock icon next to the URL in the address bar to verify that the website you visit has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate.
  • Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions.
  • Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans. Tap or click here for Kim’s antivirus pick.
  • Disable or remove unneeded software applications.
  • Use two-factor authentication when possible, via biometrics, hardware tokens, or authentication apps.
  • Do not open emails, attachments, or links from unknown individuals.
  • Do not communicate with unsolicited text message/email senders by verifying the email header information.

If you or someone you know has come across what you believe to be a spoofed unemployment benefit site, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Keep reading

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Data breach alert: Unemployment applicants at risk for identity theft

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