Beware of Unemployment Fraud

Fraudulent and imposter unemployment claims have become increasingly more prevalent in the wake of the pandemic and the expansion of jobless benefits by the federal government. Even though unemployment insurance offices have systems in place that stop most fraudulent or impostor claims before they are even processed, some filings may fall through the cracks. There is always a chance you could be affected. Given its far-reaching potential consequences, unemployment fraud is a severe concern.

Individuals 
There are several ways to spot an impostor claim or an unemployment claim filed by someone posing as you. Key signs include – receiving an unsolicited debit card or an unemployment insurance letter (UI Finding), or the IRS may send correspondence regarding unreported UI benefits. The UI office may report that there is already a standing claim when legally filing for unemployment. Since unemployment insurance offices also notify employers about new claims, the employer may inform employees about claims in their name.

It is crucial to act quickly fraudulent claim is suspected. Doing so will help minimize the impact. First, contact the Department of Labor Security (IDES in the case of Illinois) and notify them about the issue. Next, destroy any debit or benefits card received in the mail. It is also safe to assume that your personal information is compromised. The typical requirements to file for jobless benefits include Social Security Number, Driver License or State ID, the SSNs and dates of birth of any dependents on the claim, full legal name, mailing address, phone number, and wage records—among other things.

Although you are not liable for any fraudulent unemployment claims (if reported promptly), a fraudster with access to personal information may use the data to commit other kinds of fraud. Issue a fraud alert on all credit reports. Then monitor account activity for unexpected charges or new account applications. Likewise, freezing your credit to prevent further fraudulent activity is advisable. You should also file a report with the police department, the FTC, or other applicable authorities.  Identity theft programs will take similar steps for clients, so consider pursuing those options as well.

Employers and Business Owners 
UI offices notify employers every time an employee files an unemployment claim. Several steps can be taken to prevent fraudulent claims from being paid or to mitigate the damage if one already has. The owner or HR department should stay vigilant and monitor unemployment reports regularly.  Contact current or former employees promptly and verify if the claim was filed by them or not. Likewise, report the fraud to the state unemployment benefits agency and the local police department. Fraudsters may have compromised employee information through servers or databases, so review current security measures.

There are ways to prevent personal information from falling into the wrong hands. Never give personal or financial information over the phone, by email, or by mail unless you initiate the contact and can confirm the person on the other end. Protect your devices against malware by using firewalls and anti-virus software. Avoid clicking on links from suspicious emails. Monitor your accounts regularly for any unusual activity and check your credit report at least once a year. Shred or destroy paperwork containing personal information.

It’s a crazy world out there.  Be vigilant, be safe.