Here’s how to stop fraudsters from stealing your identity to file false unemployment claims.
In September, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it’s providing $100 million in funding available to states to battle unemployment insurance fraud. As the numbers for unemployment claims continue to skyrocket, states face “significant challenges” due to a spike in fraudulent activity and identity theft, according to the DOL.
Criminals use personally identifiable information (PII) obtained through online purchase of stolen PPI, cold-calling victims with impersonation scams, and other nefarious methods to file and collect on fake unemployment claims, according to the FBI.
States will use the DOL funds to staff or contract services for fraud investigations and fraud detection. Meanwhile, you can take steps to keep your identity safe from thieves trying to clock in with a bogus claim for unemployment benefits under your name.
1. Beware of phishing emails and texts
Be wary of any text messages, emails, letters or websites that ask you to provide personal or other sensitive information, especially your birth date or Social Security number, warns the FBI. Use caution with attachments and embedded links, never opening attachments or clicking on links from an unknown sender.
2. Don’t fall for debit and direct deposit card scams
States often use debit cards or direct deposit to pay unemployment compensation. But unemployment insurance scammers may also try to get sensitive, personal information under the guise of issuing state benefits, according to security software company Norton.
“One scam asks you for personal information to apply for a card. Another scam has you apply for the card and then charges you for inactivity,” says Norton. “Always make sure the source of a payment-related offer is legitimate.”
Find out: 6 Red Flags of a COVID-19 Extortion Scam
3. Don’t respond to fake phone calls or texts
One popular unemployment benefits scam involves phone or text messages falsely telling you that your unemployment benefits have been suspended, according to Norton. The only way to reactivate your account, according to the message, is to call a number and provide information such as debit card numbers and PINs.
Never provide sensitive personal information to a number not associated with your state unemployment agency. Always call your state unemployment agency directly if you want to check the status of your claim or account.
4. Know how identity thieves work
To get ahead of unemployment insurance fraudsters, it pays to familiarize yourself with the methods thieves use to get sensitive personal information. Reading about how to avoid social engineering and phishing attacks, protecting against malicious code, and preventing and responding to identity theft is a good place to start.
5. Monitor credit card and bank accounts
The FBI recommends monitoring your bank and credit card account statements regularly, watching for unauthorized transactions related to unemployment insurance compensation or other suspicious activity. If you notice unauthorized transactions, report the activity to your credit card company or bank immediately.
6. Don’t be fooled by fictitious websites
When filing for unemployment, don’t get tricked into providing sensitive personal information to identity thieves on fake websites mimicking official government agency sites and social media pages. Instead, call your state unemployment agency for the website address, which will usually be mentioned in the recorded greeting.
7. Review your credit report
To help catch possible identity theft that could lead to unemployment insurance fraud early, order a copy of your credit report at least once a year, scanning it for fraudulent activity, says the FBI. You can obtain one free copy of your credit report per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you notice suspicious activity on your credit report, consider placing a fraud alert that notifies you if someone tries to get credit under your name with major credit bureaus. If you see an account you didn’t open on your credit report, contact all three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – to report fraudulent activity. Consider placing a freeze on your credit, which blocks companies from pulling your credit report while the freeze is in place.
Find out: What Happens When You Freeze Your Credit
8. Report unemployment insurance fraud
If you notice unauthorized transactions related to unemployment compensation or receive correspondence from your state unemployment agency about a claim you never filed, contact the unemployment agency immediately to report the fraud and stop payments to the identity thief.
9. Report identity theft
Published by Debt.com, LLC