Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, unemployment rates and unemployment insurance claims have reached all-time highs.
With this increase of claims also comes an increase in fraudulent behavior and scams. Experts estimate that at least $89 billion in pandemic-related benefits have been stolen.
Millions of false unemployment insurance claims have been filed in the United States over the last year. According to James Lee, chief operating officer at the Identity Theft Resource Center, criminals are exploiting outdated systems to gain personal information.
Many victims of UI-related fraud due to identity theft discover that their names were being used to steal benefits however, most didn’t know until they became unemployed and couldn’t file for unemployment themselves because a scammer had beat them to it. Others have received tax forms in the mail, confirming that they have filed an unemployment claim when in reality, they never filed.
A majority of these scams targeted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program because, unlike typical state unemployment, PUA applicants do not need an employer to verify their employment status.
Most victims are unaware that claims have been filed and benefits have been claimed using their identities. If you are suspicious, below are some warning signs that you’ve been a victim of unemployment identity fraud:
You received a 1099-G tax form but you did not apply for unemployment insurance in the last year.
Your employer notified you, while you are still employed, that they received a request for information about an unemployment claim in your name.
You received mail from a government or workforce agency about unemployment payment or claims when you did not apply for benefits. This could also include unexpected payments or debit cards.
The best thing you can do is act fast. If someone was able to file an unemployment claim under your name, you should assume they have access to personal information such as your social security number. Here are steps you should take immediately.
Report the potential identity theft to the state where it occurred.
Click here to find each individual states’ online reporting forms. The state may require additional documentation to open an investigation. From there, they will review your case and make a determination. Please note, each state has different requirements and processes for investigating identity theft.
**Report the fraudulent activity to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud. **
In addition to reporting with the state, reporting with the National Center for Disaster Fraud can help stop future unemployment identity theft.
** Check your credit report for suspicious activity.**
You can request a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com for each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or Transunion) to look for any unusual activity to unauthorized lines of credit.
Change the passwords to your email, banking, tax, and other personal accounts.
Have you ever fallen victim to unemployment fraud? What steps did you take?