You’re gainfully employed, but you receive a notification from your state asking you to confirm that you’ve filed for unemployment. You realize that a fraudster has used your personal information to file for unemployment. What do you do now?
Contact your employer and your state unemployment agency immediately.
It happened recently to David Sherrill, Regions Quality Service manager. “At first, I thought the letter was fake,” said Sherrill, and he almost threw it away. But upon closer examination, he saw that it contained his accurate salary information. “That’s when I knew the letter was legitimate, and someone had used my information to file for unemployment and they were probably trying to direct payments to their account.”
This is unemployment benefits fraud – it’s not new, but states have seen a surge in this type of fraud as unemployment has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fraudsters will use personally identifiable information stolen through phishing attempts, data breaches, cold calling (vishing) attempts, or other methods. This information is then used to file for unemployment insurance benefits. Unfortunately, because state unemployment agencies are overwhelmed with a backlog of claims, sometimes fraudulent ones are successful.
It can happen to any of us.
David Sherrill, Regions Quality Service manager
According to the FBI, most victims don’t know that their information has been compromised and is being used for this nefarious activity, unless they receive one of the following:
- An IRS Form 1099-G tax form stating the unemployment compensation received throughout the year
- A notification from the state unemployment insurance agency
- A notification from the employer stating they’ve received information that the victim has filed for unemployment.
If you do receive one of the above notices and you haven’t filed for unemployment, you will need to report the fraud so that your name will be cleared from the fraudulent activity. It’s crucial that you take the following steps to report the activity to prevent further and more damaging identity theft activities.
- Report unemployment fraud to your employer and your state unemployment agency. State contact information can be found on the Department of Labor website.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission to prevent further identity theft at identitytheft.gov or call 877-ID-THEFT.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to freeze your credit reports and verify further identity theft has not occurred.
- If you suspect but are unsure you have been affected by unemployment benefit fraud, contact your state unemployment agency.
Sherrill urges everyone to take this message seriously and carefully review any unemployment notifications you receive. “It can happen to any of us,” he said. “Knowing what actions to take if it happens to you is crucial.”
The information presented is general in nature and should not be considered, legal, accounting or tax advice. Regions reminds its customers that they should be vigilant about fraud and security and that they are responsible for taking action to protect their computer systems. Fraud prevention requires a continuous review of your policies and practices, as the threat evolves daily. There is no guarantee that all fraudulent transactions will be prevented or that related financial losses will not occur. Visit regions.com/STOPFRAUD, or speak with your Banker for further information on how you can help prevent fraud.