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Tennessee Department of Labor warns of nationwide unemployment email scam

The Tennessee Department of Labor issued a warning about an email scam making its way across the country.

Chris Cannon, Director of Communications, told News 2 how it works. “There’s an actual link within the email, and they are asking to you to submit documents. We think that’s how they are scamming folks to get personal and identifiable information. If you click on that link that’s where the scam starts. If you get this email… delete it and don’t respond to it. It’s the best way to avoid being a victim of the scam.”

Here is an example of what the scam email could look like:

Cannon said any correspondence from his department would be branded, so if an email is not, then it’s a good sign that it’s not actually from the Tennessee Department of Labor. If you receive this email, Cannon encourages the public to notify his department, so they can track scams like this.

“Because of the pandemic there are literally billions and billions of dollars of unemployment claims across the nation, including here in Tennessee. When there is that much money out there, that is a prime target for criminals and that is what we are seeing across the nation.”

Cannon said in a typical year, the state of Tennessee would pay around $190 million in unemployment benefits for the entire year. So far in 2020, Tennessee has paid more than $five billion in unemployment claims.

“Nearly one million claims have been filed for unemployment since March 15. In a typical week we would take in about 2,500 claims. At the height back in April we were taking about 25,000 claims in just one week.”

Cannon said they’ve received ten years worth of unemployment claims in just the last eight months. They even doubled their staff to keep up with the demand.

One of those claims was filed by Cesar Virto, of Nashville. Virto told News 2 he lost his job at Lyft headquarters during the pandemic, leading him to file for unemployment benefits.

“When I lost my job it was very detrimental. I didn’t know I was going to lose my job. Our CEO told us everything was good. But I knew things were going to get bad when my Airbnb numbers started tanking.”

Virto said this was the first time he’s ever had to file for unemployment and it became a lengthy process.

“The application process was so frustrating, but receiving financial help was a blessing. I started receiving financial assistance maybe about two to three weeks after I had filed. I’m frugal right now. I am counting everything, getting assistance from Casa Azafran, the animal shelter to feed my dog.. any money is crucial to me.”

Virto told News 2 he has been contacted by scammers during the filing process.

“I’ve gotten emails and text messages saying we need information and if it’s not the same URL I have been working with directly, I don’t pay attention to it. I think scammers are praying on the vulnerability of those who need help. Scammers are going to be scammers and we just have to be one step ahead of them.”

Virto said after getting several rejections, he finally landed a new job with Postmates at the corporate level. He has advice for anyone looking for a job in this difficult time.

“I would say to people that are hurting financially…seek help. Don’t be embarrassed, humble yourself. That’s something that I did.. I didn’t think I’d be I the position of calling or being in line at Casa Azafran. If you’re in that position, seek help and get the help you need.”

Cannon said his department is working diligently to prevent scams like this from happening to people already going through a difficult time.

“If someone is on unemployment, then they are already down and out because they don’t have a job and then someone is going come in and scam them. That’s what we want to try and prevent here in Tennessee.”