Unemployed Iowans are being warned about employment websites that look official but that charge for services the state can provide for free. Kerry Koonce, spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, says those websites are preying on vulnerable people who are simply looking for help.

Koonce says there have been complaints from Iowans who are searching for unemployment information about having been "taken in" by websites that charge people for filing their claims and for filing their weekly job search reports.

She says Iowans are already paying for that service through their tax dollars and they shouldn’t get duped by the online promises. "We encourage anyone that is in the need of filing unemployment, that they do so directly on our website at ‘iowaworkforce.org’ or in person at one of our 55 field offices across the state," Koonce says.

Iowans who’ve been using other websites are urged to cancel their subscriptions right away and report the information to the Consumer Protection Division of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office at (515) 281-5926.

Koonce says the sites don’t charge huge fees, but any fee is too much when the state is already providing the service for nothing. Most of the websites charge around $20 to file and then they charge another three or four dollars a week to file the claim. Koonce says people who are unemployed are already likely facing difficult economic times, "so this just adds to that stress."

While these websites might promise prompt response or guarantee approval, she says in many cases, the sites may jeopardize or delay weekly benefits and could expose Iowans to identity theft.