The U.S. Secret Service reports that impostors using stolen identities have received hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefits in states across the country. These sophisticated criminals, often based overseas, file unemployment claims using Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information belonging to identity theft victims. Because many state unemployment offices are currently overwhelmed by the sheer number of claims, it’s easier than normal for bogus claims to be pushed through the system.

Besides the fact that these schemes take money out of state treasuries, they can also impact individuals. Someone applying for unemployment benefits may be told that they are already receiving them, although the money was funneled to a scammer half-a-world away. In another situation, a victim may be told by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that they owe taxes on unemployment benefits they received in 2020, although they never filed for or received benefits.

Be on the lookout for any correspondence from your state’s unemployment office. If you receive a letter mentioning a claim you didn’t make, or if you receive a letter regarding a claim from another state, take immediate action. Contact the initiating state’s unemployment agency to notify them that the claim is fraudulent.

Contributor: ZIONS Bank

August 10, 2020