Bozeman police officials are seeing more reports of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, matching the trend seen in Montana and the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sgt. Travis Munter said the Bozeman Police Department has been getting multiple calls a week from people who say an unemployment claim was filed in their name without their knowledge. It has happened to an officer within the department, too.
He said those reports have increased within the last month.
“We’ve definitely noticed an uptick in that specific reporting,” Munter said.
Any time there’s a disaster or crisis, Munter said, there’s always someone trying to take advantage of the situation.
He said people report getting mail from the Department of Labor and Industry saying their unemployment claim is under review or has been approved even though they haven’t filed a claim.
Munter said it’s hard to know how often the scam works.
Munter said this is common during tax season, too — someone files taxes in another person’s name and tries to get a check sent to an address attached to the person trying to commit the fraud.
Munter encouraged people not to give out their ID or social security number to websites or unfamiliar people. He suspects that scammers could be getting personal information through emails that appear to be from Amazon, PayPal or other well-known companies.
“I think that it is way more prevalent than we all realize,” Munter said.
In a June 11 news release, the labor department announced that from April 28 to June 7 it identified more than $10 million paid out to possible fraudulent unemployment claims. The department said it was working with banks, law enforcement and the U.S. Office of Inspector General to recover the money.
From April 28 to earlier this month, the labor department said, $220 million in fraudulent insurance payments have been prevented.
People who didn’t file for unemployment and received an unemployment identity verification letter could report it at http://uid.dli.mt.gov/report-fraud or by calling 1-888-566-5677. The Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website, identitytheft.gov, provides resources on reporting and protection against identity theft.
The labor department’s news release said victims of unemployment fraud are not required to repay stolen money. Victims of fraud who need unemployment assistance can still apply for the insurance.