ATLANTA – As tax season is approaching, a number of Georgians are discovering that they may be the victims of unemployment insurance fraud. Consumers claim they received 1099-G forms from the Department of Labor indicating that they owe taxes on unemployment compensation they received in 2020. The only problem is, the benefits actually went to identity thieves who used the consumers’ names and Social Security numbers to file phony unemployment claims and collect the benefit money.
“These scams are not only hurting struggling Georgians, they are also putting additional strain on the Department of Labor at a time when it is already grappling with a record number of unemployment claims,” Attorney General Chris Carr said in a news release. “I encourage all Georgians to be alert, report any fraud to the Department of Labor and be vigilant about protecting their sensitive information.”
According to the Georgia Department of Labor, criminals perpetrating these unemployment benefits scams used previously stolen personal information to either (1) open new unemployment claims in victims’ names or (2) access legitimate unemployment claims and fraudulently file for weeks of benefits.
“We have implemented many successful tactics to combat fraud,” Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said. “However, the problem lies in personal information that may have been compromised years ago and criminals are now exploiting the chaos of the pandemic to dishonestly receive UI benefits.”
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division offers the following guidance.
You may be the victim of unemployment insurance fraud if:
— You received a 1099-G form and did not file an unemployment insurance (UI) claim yourself or your employer did not file one for you;
— You got unemployment in 2020, but your 1099-G includes benefits for weeks you didn’t claim.
In either case, any fraud victim should report the potential fraud to the Department of Labor at dol.state.ga.us/public/uiben/fraud/reportType. Select Report 1099 ID Theft at the bottom of the form and follow instructions. Each should also:
— Report the fraud to your employer;
— Consider having the credit reporting agencies place a fraud alert and/or credit freeze on your credit accounts;
— Check your credit card and bank accounts regularly for any unauthorized charges. If you suspect fraud, notify your financial institution immediately so they can put a hold on your account and issue you replacement debit or credit cards;
— Never give out your Social Security number or personal or financial information to someone who calls or emails you out of the blue, even if it seems legitimate. Instead, initiate contact yourself by calling a verified phone number.
— To protect against someone using your identity to file a Federal tax return, consider requesting an Identity Protection Pin (IP PIN) from the IRS. This is a six-digit number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS that helps the IRS verify the taxpayer’s identity.