Identity thieves are many things. Bad. Shady. Unethical. Heartless…stop us we could go on for hours. Unfortunately, they’re also highly resourceful, often using difficult situations and the misfortunes of others to their financial advantage.
Situations like COVID-19.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that COVID-19-related scams have resulted in losses of $13.4 million for Americans. Those scams range from fake cures and test kits to stolen stimulus payments and charitable donation scams.
One scam that’s becoming alarmingly common in Massachusetts – and around the nation – is unemployment fraud. With this type of fraud, identity thieves use stolen personal information of victims, such as their Social Security numbers and addresses to submit claims for unemployment benefits. If those claims are approved, thieves then arrange to have unemployment funds diverted to their accounts.
Determining if you’re a victim
So how do you know if you’re a victim of unemployment fraud? The FTC indicates that you could receive a letter from the state’s unemployment office or from your employer notifying you about a claim filed in your name.
That claim means thieves have access to your personal information, which
Neil Buckley, Avidia’s Senior Vice President of Compliance and Security, believes they may have had for a while.
“We’ve actually seen fraud that resulted from the Equifax breach that happened in 2017,” he says. “Identity thieves are very patient.”
That Equifax breach resulted in the personal information of nearly 150 million Americans being compromised.
Steps you can take if you believe a false unemployment claim has been filed
If you receive notice about an unemployment claim you didn’t file, Buckley advises you to take the following steps to protect yourself:
- Complete a secure fraud reporting form or call 877-626-6800.
- File a report with the local police.
“Make sure you get a copy of the report, which will be essential in the event your credit gets impacted,” he advises.
- Contact each of the major three credit bureaus and request a credit freeze.
- Equifax: 800-349-9960 or freeze your credit online
- Experian: 888‑397‑3742 or freeze your credit online
- TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or freeze your credit online
- Obtain a copy of your credit report and dispute any inaccuracies or fraudulent accounts.
“You are entitled to one free copy a year from each of the three major bureaus,” explains Buckley.
- Monitor your account statements and activity. Avidia gives you the tools that make it easy with Internet Banking and Mobile Banking. “You can also set account alerts to keep you informed about specific activity,” he advises.
For more information on ways to protect yourself from those bad, shady, unethical, heartless…blah…blah…blah… identity thieves, visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website.