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UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD in U.S. reaches dramatic levels during COVID-19 pandemic

New IdentityTheft Scam

Unemployment fraud in the U.S. has reached dramatic levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.The Labor Department inspector general’s office estimates that more than $63 billion has been paid out improperly through fraud or errors since March 2020.Criminals are seizing on the opportunity created by the pandemic and are making false claims using stolen information.Victims can face delays getting their legitimate benefits and are at risk for further fraud.The unemployment benefits scam was on 8 On Your Side consumer reporter Brian Roche’s list of top scams of 2020. Watch the video above for more.How people find out they’re a victimMany people don’t know they are a victim of unemployment fraud until the damage is done.People typically find out about the problem when they receive benefits-related paperwork in the mail, a call from their employer or when they try to file a legitimate claim for benefits and are denied. In some cases, a criminal may initiate the false claim but the money itself is sent to the victim’s account or home. The fraudsters may also build on a legitimate claim by requesting further benefits and nabbing those.The fraud may have been perpetrated months ago but some people may just be finding out now because of tax season. States are required to mail out a 1099-G form, which reports income from unemployment benefits. People may receive these for benefits they never claimed, sometimes from multiple states. A taxpayer may also discover the issue after they file their federal taxes, only to be alerted later by the IRS that they did not report all their income, due to the bogus claim.Retired individuals may find out they are a victim when the Social Security Administration alerts them their benefits are being reduced.Some homeowners have also found their address tied up in a scam after they put their home up for sale. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) said criminals are applying for unemployment benefits using the addresses of homes that are being sold. Once approved, the state unknowingly issues benefits to the fraudsters.Warning signsThe ITRC urges people to be alert to any suspicious mail, phone calls, email or social media requests, which could be attempts to gather personal information or a sign of existing fraud.Visa describes a few warning signs: offers from people or organizations you don’t recognize promising earlier and faster unemployment benefits; solicitations from people you don’t know offering money in exchange for personal information; and letters or email correspondence indicating new accounts or unemployment insurance benefits have been initiated in your name.What to do if you’re a victimIf you are a victim, reach out to your state unemployment office to report the fraud. If there were false claims in multiple states, reach out to each state individually. If you need to make a legitimate benefits claim but have a fraudulent claim made in your name, you need to work with this department. Your claim could be delayed while the matter is sorted out.Contact your employer if they are not already aware.Visit the FTC’s identity theft website to report the fraud and get information on other best practices. You may want to report the fraud to your local police department or sheriff’s office. File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud by completing an NCDF Complaint Form online or by calling 866-720-5721.Reach out to each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to put a fraud alert on your account and freeze your credit. Those steps will not prevent unemployment fraud from being committed but could deter further crime.Protect yourselfExperts advise people to keep a close eye on credit reports and financial statements.Also, practice good digital hygiene: update passwords, use two-factor authentication when possible and do not overshare information online or respond to suspicious inquiries.If you haven’t filed your taxes, do so as soon as possible. It becomes much more difficult to do so if a criminal has filed taxes in your name.Taxpayers who are identity theft victims should consider getting an IRS Identity Protection PIN, which is a six-digit number that helps prevent thieves from filing federal tax returns in the names of their victims.

Unemployment fraud in the U.S. has reached dramatic levels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Labor Department inspector general’s office estimates that more than $63 billion has been paid out improperly through fraud or errors since March 2020.

Criminals are seizing on the opportunity created by the pandemic and are making false claims using stolen information.

Victims can face delays getting their legitimate benefits and are at risk for further fraud.

The unemployment benefits scam was on 8 On Your Side consumer reporter Brian Roche’s list of top scams of 2020. Watch the video above for more.

How people find out they’re a victim

Many people don’t know they are a victim of unemployment fraud until the damage is done.

People typically find out about the problem when they receive benefits-related paperwork in the mail, a call from their employer or when they try to file a legitimate claim for benefits and are denied. In some cases, a criminal may initiate the false claim but the money itself is sent to the victim’s account or home. The fraudsters may also build on a legitimate claim by requesting further benefits and nabbing those.

The fraud may have been perpetrated months ago but some people may just be finding out now because of tax season. States are required to mail out a 1099-G form, which reports income from unemployment benefits. People may receive these for benefits they never claimed, sometimes from multiple states. A taxpayer may also discover the issue after they file their federal taxes, only to be alerted later by the IRS that they did not report all their income, due to the bogus claim.

Retired individuals may find out they are a victim when the Social Security Administration alerts them their benefits are being reduced.

Some homeowners have also found their address tied up in a scam after they put their home up for sale. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) said criminals are applying for unemployment benefits using the addresses of homes that are being sold. Once approved, the state unknowingly issues benefits to the fraudsters.

Warning signs

The ITRC urges people to be alert to any suspicious mail, phone calls, email or social media requests, which could be attempts to gather personal information or a sign of existing fraud.

Visa describes a few warning signs: offers from people or organizations you don’t recognize promising earlier and faster unemployment benefits; solicitations from people you don’t know offering money in exchange for personal information; and letters or email correspondence indicating new accounts or unemployment insurance benefits have been initiated in your name.

What to do if you’re a victim

If you are a victim, reach out to your state unemployment office to report the fraud. If there were false claims in multiple states, reach out to each state individually. If you need to make a legitimate benefits claim but have a fraudulent claim made in your name, you need to work with this department. Your claim could be delayed while the matter is sorted out.

Contact your employer if they are not already aware.

Visit the FTC’s identity theft website to report the fraud and get information on other best practices. You may want to report the fraud to your local police department or sheriff’s office.

File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud by completing an NCDF Complaint Form online or by calling 866-720-5721.

Reach out to each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to put a fraud alert on your account and freeze your credit. Those steps will not prevent unemployment fraud from being committed but could deter further crime.

Protect yourself

Experts advise people to keep a close eye on credit reports and financial statements.

Also, practice good digital hygiene: update passwords, use two-factor authentication when possible and do not overshare information online or respond to suspicious inquiries.

If you haven’t filed your taxes, do so as soon as possible. It becomes much more difficult to do so if a criminal has filed taxes in your name.

Taxpayers who are identity theft victims should consider getting an IRS Identity Protection PIN, which is a six-digit number that helps prevent thieves from filing federal tax returns in the names of their victims.

Source: on 2021-03-15 12:52:30

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