Protect Yourself from Unemployment Scams
Local police departments have seen an increase in unemployment scams and warns residents to be cautious. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a spike in imposters filing claims for unemployment benefits with the names and personal information of people who have not filed claims, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).
IDES states that an individual who has not filed an unemployment claim but has received a debit card or an unemployment insurance (UI) filing letter in the mail has most likely been the target of fraud. If this happens to you, it means someone is using your personal information without permission, including your Social Security number, which was likely exposed in a prior cyber hack or data breach, such as the Equifax breach. IDES is working with local and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate, pursue, and prosecute those who are defrauding the unemployment insurance system.
Here are some tips to protect yourself:
- Be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers.
- Avoid phishing scams and be cautious of emails with attachments and embedded links, especially from an unknown sender.
- Monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis.
If you think you have become a victim of identity theft related to fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, here are a few steps to take:
- Immediately call IDES at 800-814-0513.
- Do not activate the debit card that was mailed to you.
- Report the fraud to your employer, your state unemployment benefits agency, and the IRS.
- Consider filing a police report with your local Police Department.
- Visit identitytheft.gov to report the fraud to the FTC and get help with the next important recovery steps, like placing a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Review your credit reports often to spot any new fraud quickly.
IDES press release (8/25/2020).
IDES Partnering with IDFPR, Financial Institutions to Combat Unemployment Fraud
Partnership Will Assist in Identifying and Recovering Fraudulent Payments
IDES has partnered with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) – Division of Banking and Division of Financial Institutions to work with financial institutions in detecting and combating unemployment fraud. The discovery of unemployment fraud can often be identified early on at the financial institutional level. Coordinating and engaging financial institutions as a resource has been a proven and successful approach in identifying fraudulent actors and detecting and recovering improper payments.
Financial institutions should be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities to assist IDES in combatting unemployment fraud:
- New account with sudden multiple deposit transactions from state unemployment insurance programs
- Name and/or data on the account does not match the name and/or data with ACH transaction(s)
- Account holder is receiving unemployment insurance transactions from a state(s) in which they do not reside
- Account holder is receiving multiple unemployment insurance transactions from multiple states
- Same device is accessing multiple accounts
- Point of sale transactions are inconsistent with the address on the account
“IDES is committed to continuing to get the unprecedented amount of benefits out the door to our claimants who desperately need it while being acutely aware that rampant fraud is penetrating all state unemployment systems across the nation,” said IDES Acting Director Kristin Richards. “While we are vigilant in our methods to detect, stop, and pursue fraudulent actors, we welcome any partnership that will assist the Department in this effort.”
Last month, IDES announced it was working with local and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate, pursue, and prosecute the widespread unemployment fraud scheme being conducted nationwide, impacting each state’s federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) programs, implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
An individual who has not filed an unemployment claim but has received a debit card or an unemployment insurance (UI) finding letter in the mail has most likely been the target of fraud. An individual’s personal identifying information is being used by fraudsters to file an unemployment claim is likely due to a prior cyber hack or data breach, such as the Equifax breach. It is imperative that individuals take the following steps if they have not filed an unemployment claim and have erroneously received an unemployment debit card or UI finding letter in the mail:
- Immediately report the claim online or call IDES at 800.814.0513 and when prompted:
- Select the English or Spanish language option
- Selection option 1 for claimants
- Selection option 5 to report identity theft
- Do not activate the debit card that was mailed to you.
- Have your credit report checked for possible suspicious activity and post a fraud alert.
- Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website to learn helpful tips on recognizing and reporting identity theft.
The increase in the fraudulent unemployment claims is attributed primarily to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Under the ambiguous federal guidelines, which were developed in haste because of the urgency of the pandemic and issued to every state without a uniform method of implementation, the potential for fraud within the system is abundant. Most recent data show there to be approximately 107,000 fraudulent claims affecting the PUA system since its launch on May 11, with just 14,500 fraudulent claims affecting the regular unemployment system since March 1.