(Better Business Bureau of Acadiana)- As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, thieves taking advantage of increased unemployment to collect benefits in the names of unsuspecting victims.
Be sure to guard personal information and report suspicious activity, as unemployment fraud is costing the United States government billions of dollars.
Scammers typically get the personal information they need for fake unemployment claims by purchasing it on the dark web. One con artist told USA Today that he compiles lists of real people then pays $2 in cryptocurrency to match each name with a Social Security number and date of birth.
This is often all the information he needs to file a phony claim.
Other times, scammers get personal information for fake claims through phishing techniques. They send fake notifications from financial institutions or government agencies to trick people into sharing Social Security numbers and other information.
Other scammers make cold calls to potential victims and coax them into sharing personal information.
Most victims don’t know their identity has been used for unemployment fraud until they are contacted about an unemployment claim they never made. According to BBB Scam Tracker, here are some common ways victims became aware of the fraud:
- A notification from an unemployment office “confirming” the date of their last day of work – even though they are still employed.
- A letter from the state unemployment office or department of labor informing them that their unemployment benefits were denied – even though they made no such claim.
- Their employer is notified that they filed for unemployment benefits even though they still work for the company.
BBB Serving Acadiana offers the following tips to protect against this and similar scams:
- Report suspicious notifications. If you receive a letter, email, or any other notification about an unemployment claim that you never made, be sure to report it to state and federal agencies as well as law enforcement. Usually it is the state department of Labor.
- Check your credit report. An unemployment claim in your name means that scammers have your personal information. Be sure to check your credit report for unauthorized inquiries and accounts. In the U.S., you have the right to check your credit report with each of the three major credit bureaus once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only free crediting reporting service authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.
- If personal information such as Social Security numbers have been compromised, freeze your credit by contacting transUnion Fraud Alert Assistance. They will ask for your Social Security number, but it is safe to share it with them, as they are a major credit reporting agency that will report the incident to the other two.
- Set up transaction alerts with your bank or credit union. This ensures notification of any withdrawal above a dollar amount which you determine.