Submitted by Norm Needleman, State Senator.
I hope you are staying safe and healthy. Please take a couple of minutes to read an update regarding unemployment assistance. Additionally, be aware of potential scams relating to COVID-19 vaccines and stimulus checks to steal people’s personal and financial information. I want to share a few tips on how you can recognize and avoid scams.
Unemployment Assistance Update
Unemployment Claimants Need to Re-Apply, Department of Labor Says
The Department of Labor reminded those who filed for unemployment at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that their benefit years are coming to an end and they must re-apply if still needing to file unemployment. The Department expects about 150,000 new unemployment claims in the next few weeks; they said it may take a week to process claims, though they have more than tripled their claims representatives and last spring’s wait times of four to six weeks are no longer going to occur. With the new American Rescue Plan in consideration, claimants will need to file for a new benefit year or may risk losing the extended federal assistance administered in that legislation.
Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation
The CARES Act II includes a new unemployment compensation program for mixed earners, eligible filers who have both self-employment earnings and W2 earnings. The MEUC, expected to roll out in Connecticut in early April, offers $100 in additional support per week for those filers. The Department of Labor will notify claimants who may be eligible; additional information is available on its federal programs page.
VA Continuing to Hold Vaccination Clinics
The VA continues to hold vaccination clinics for military veterans, who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine with no additional qualifiers necessary. Its upcoming clinic schedule includes the following events:
- Friday, March 19 at the Newington campus at 555 Willard Avenue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; please call 203-932-5711 with extensions 5627, 7784 or 7754 to make an appointment
- Thursday, March 18 and Friday, March 19 at the West Haven Annex, 200 Edison Road/Pez Blvd. in Orange, from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m., with walk-ins welcome
- Saturday, March 20 at the West Haven campus, Firm B, Building 2, second floor of 950 Campbell Avenue from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with walk-ins welcome
- Saturday, March 20 by appointment at the West Haven campus, Firm B, Building 2, second floor of 950 Campbell Avenue from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.; please call 203-932-5711 with extensions 5627, 7784 or 7754 to make an appointment
Tips and Advice on How to Avoid Scams
Beware of Stimulus Check Scams
Beware of potential scams as you receive your third stimulus check. The Better Business Bureau said to watch out for thieves emailing or texting people, claiming to have information about the checks. Instead, the scammers take your personal information and commit identity theft. The scammers may also call claiming to be a government agency that you need to pay before they provide your stimulus check. A reminder: you do not need to pay fees to get this stimulus check or provide personal information.
Here are several tips to avoid these scams:
- Do your research and be wary of information that seems too good to be true.
- Be calm if someone claiming to be a government official contacts you. It’s important not to act immediately. These scammers are hoping you’ll act before you fact check.
- Always double check information you see online with official news sources.
- Don’t give your personal information to any sources you don’t trust.
- Be wary of emails claiming to be about your stimulus check, don’t click on any unfamiliar links.
- Check the URL if you’re suspicious of a link. Be sure it ends in .gov if it claims to be a message from the government.
- Don’t respond to unknown calls, emails or texts. If you receive a call from the government, look up the office’s official phone number and use that to return the call.
- Confirm the agency you’re being contacted by actually exists. Scammers can make up names of agencies that sound real, but aren’t. You can verify the agency by doing a web search to find more information about it.
Beware of Scams Related to COVID-19 Vaccines
The Office of the Attorney General and the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection recently learned of a new scam where people pose as COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer and send consumers what they call a COVID-19 survey. The fraudsters claim the survey offers rewards for opinions about the vaccine. In order to get the reward, people are required to provide credit card information. In a separate scheme, state officials said fraudsters sent a letter impersonating the governor’s office that says the vaccines are dangerous. It then directs people to a website that tries to capitalize on people’s fears and attempts to scam people’s information and money. A reminder to not visit any links that may be set up to steal your information.
Here are some tips to help protect yourself against virus-related scams:
- Make sure you do not pay anything to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine. Also, do not trust any promotional offers that may be related to the vaccine.
- Do not engage with any sales ads that may be related to the vaccine. The vaccine cannot be bought anywhere and is only available at federal and state-approved locations for no cost.
- Keep an eye out for unsolicited emails or texts about the vaccine, especially with offers of rewards or payment.
Do not share any personal, financial or health information with any unfamiliar people. No one from a vaccine distribution site, healthcare provider, pharmacy, or health care payer like a private insurance company will ask for sensitive information in connection with the vaccine.