How much can you lose, and a scammer gain? Easily, thousands of dollars
In some of the reports the Identity Theft Resource Center received, people lost $5,000 to $7,000 worth of unemployment benefits.
The reason is that depending when the fraudsters files on behalf of a victim, if they lie and state they have been out of work three months, that means state and federal employment assistance would be retroactive.
So, for instance, that could mean $400 a week at the state level, $600 at the federal level, for three months, would be $12,000 – straight into a scammer’s pocket, with an unknowing person potentially footing the tax bill.
As well, it can be a long time until an investigator or state inspector uncovers what happened.
It can take weeks or months for an investigation to be conducted and for the state to recover the money. That means unemployed workers have to wait additional weeks or months for their first payment, if they were a victim of fraud.
“In any case, it’s going to be another series of weeks or months delay to get that cleaned up before you can actually get your benefits,” Lee said. “To an individual who’s waiting on an unemployment benefit check, that’s a huge financial issue.”
Often victims of unemployment scams only realize what’s happened when they must apply for benefits.
Fraudsters prefer to use the personal information of people who haven’t applied for unemployment benefits, because that’s when they’re able to get them.
Their victims may not realize what happened until the federal government tries to collect taxes.
If you already have an account set up with the state, make sure the information hasn’t been changed and that you have a secure password. If two-factor authentication is an option, use it by putting your phone number or email address as the second identifier.
“Don’t do a password. Do a passphrase and make it something [you can] remember,” Lee said. “Make sure you don’t use that phrase, anywhere else. One passphrase, one account.”
Monitoring your credit is also a good way of catching early on if you’ve been a victim of identity fraud. If you see a new account opened under your name that you didn’t authorize, that’s a good indication that someone has your personal data and could use it to apply for unemployment benefits.
Reporting the scam as early as possible provides a higher chance of stopping the criminals. If you find yourself a victim of an unemployment benefits scam, report it to your state department and local law enforcement office.
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