What is Unemployment Fraud? Unemployment Insurance Fraud on the Rise
Since the pandemic, unemployment insurance fraud has been increasing. If you have been the victim of fraud, read this article for steps to take.
Unemployment Insurance Fraud Is on the Rise
Unemployment insurance (UI) is supposed to be a safety net for people that have been laid off from work, but these benefits often wind up in the wrong hands. Just about anyone can file for unemployment. If a scammer or hacker gets their hands on your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), bank account number, address, phone number and debit or credit card, they can try to apply for benefits in your name. This is what’s known as unemployment insurance fraud. It’s a serious crime that can result in steep fines, criminal prosecution and even jail time. Plus, victims of this crime also have to pay taxes on the unemployment benefits.
That’s why it’s important to protect yourself from unemployment insurance fraud. Use this guide to make sure someone isn’t trying to reap these benefits in your name.
Rising Unemployment Fraud in Colorado
The coronavirus pandemic put millions of Americans out of work. Like nearly every other state, Colorado had to dramatically ramp up its unemployment program in March 2020 as hundreds of thousands of people started applying for benefits. Congress temporarily increased these weekly payments to help families and individuals make ends meet. This has led to a dramatic rise in unemployment insurance fraud in Colorado and throughout the U.S. Fraudsters and scammers have been using people’s personal information to file for unemployment in hopes of cashing in on their benefits.
Many Coloradans have reported instances of fraud over the last several months. Some people will get calls and messages from the scammers pretending to be the state’s unemployment agency. Others will get notifications from the agency or IRS regarding benefits they never asked for, such as a 1099-G form. And some may be notified by their current employer that a claim has been filed in their name.
Since the start of the pandemic, many state unemployment offices have been overrun with calls, messages and urgent pleas for benefits. Many states don’t have the resources to keep up with demand and the number of inquiries they receive every day. This makes it difficult to prevent and respond to UI fraud. Authorities are urging residents to be on the lookout for suspicious messages and unprovoked responses from the state’s unemployment office.
How to Protect Yourself from UI Fraud
Someone can file for unemployment without your consent if they have access to your personal information. Use these tips to protect yourself from UI fraud:
- Keep your personal information private.
- Do not share or post your address, phone number, employment data and other valuable information on the internet.
- Do not respond to messages from state unemployment offices unless you contacted them directly.
- Watch out for suspicious emails, texts, calls and other messages from individuals asking for your personal information. You should never give out this information over the phone, text, or email. You should only do so on a secure website, such as IRS.gov.
- Do not open attachments or click on strange links. Hover your cursor over the attachment or link to see if it looks legitimate before opening.
- Only visit secure websites with a lock symbol in front of the URL.
What to Do If You Suspect You Are a Victim of Unemployment Fraud
In many cases, the fraud may have happened months ago. If you get a letter from the state unemployment agency, or your employer regarding unemployment benefits you never asked for, contact your employer and take the following actions immediately.
- Report signs of UI fraud to the authorities. Call 1.877.FRAUD.60 (1.877.372.8360) or visit the government's website for more information on identity theft.
- File a report with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. The report can be completed and filed via the department’s website.
- File an identity theft report with your local police department. That way you have it on record that someone attempted to use your personal information to commit fraud.
- Request that the credit reporting agencies add a fraud alert to your file. Once you call one credit reporting agency about the fraud alert, they will notify the other two. When a fraud alert is on your file, potential creditors will contact you if there has been an application for a new account.
- Take screenshots of emails and texts from fraudsters and send them to the authorities to help them apprehend the perpetrator. Record the time, date, with whom you spoke and for how long.
Keep this safety net in place by protecting yourself from fraud. No one is immune to unemployment fraud. During this time of crisis, millions of Americans have come to depend on these benefits and scammers are taking advantage of the situation. If someone takes benefits in your name, you may not be eligible for payments in the future.
Remember that there is certain information Ent Credit Union will never ask you for. If you get a message, call, or email from Ent asking you for information about your account, hang up and call 800-525-9623 or (719) 574-1100 and report it to one of our member service representatives right away. Visit our Security Center to learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrimes, spoofing and other types of fraud. Remember, Ent staff will not ask you for your PIN, full Social Security number Ent account number or your password.
You shouldn’t have to worry about someone using your personal information against you. At Ent, we do everything we can to protect our members from cybercrimes, fraud and abuse. Use these tips and rest assured that your money will be safe and sound.