Americans are finding themselves among another national crisis amidst the coronavirus pandemic – fraudulent unemployment claims. Across the country, employers are receiving numerous unemployment claims by imposters using the personal information of those who haven’t filed (because they are still employed).
This is simply a different form of Identity Theft where an individual’s personal identifiable information (PII) is compromised and then used to file an unemployment claim. The surge of COVID-related unemployment makes it easier for the fraudsters to file mass numbers of claims with hopes that some will go through. Unfortunately, if someone has successfully filed for unemployment in your name, not only has your PII become compromised, but you will also be responsible to pay the federal taxes owed on the amount received/reported in your name.
If you are actively working and have gotten a notice from your state or employer that someone has filed for unemployment in your name, here are 6 steps to help you get started protecting your identity and your credit.
1. Report the fraud to your employer
If you were not contacted by your employer, start by contacting your business’ Human Resources (HR) department and making them aware of the situation. For your records, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you keep a note of who you spoke to and when.
2. Report the fraud to your state unemployment benefits agency
Report the fraud to your state’s unemployment agency and let them know that it was not you who filed. You can do this quickly online, click here to find your state’s agency. Again, keep a record of your case number and who you spoke to.
3. Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Because your personal information has been compromised you will also need to file a report with the FTC. Visit IdentityTheft.gov or call 1-877-438-4338 and to complete the ID Theft Complaint Form. You should receive a confirmation notice with the reference number assigned to your complaint within 48 hours.
4. Place a fraud alert on your credit report
Placing a fraud alert on your credit will make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name, this is because a business must authorize your identity before issuing the credit. Placing a fraud alert is free, lasts one year, and will not affect your credit score. To do this, contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus and they will inform the other two.
Equifax: (800) 525-6285
After placing a fraud alert, it’s a good idea to get your credit reports and review them for major changes. You can obtain a free copy by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You should also keep an eye on your credit score. You can do this by visiting a website that will not affect your score when you check, like Credit Karma.
5. Continue to monitor your accounts
In the following weeks, you should keep a close eye on your bank and other financial account statements, utility bills, credit card statements, medical bills, and medical insurance statements. If you see any unknown activity or unauthorized transactions call and report it immediately.
6. Get ID Theft Protection
Save yourself time and stress by investing in a service that will help protect your identity, like CyberScout. CyberScout is the nation’s premier provider of identity services. California Casualty customers automatically get free ID theft resolution services from CyberScout when they purchase their policy. For more information on CyberScout click here.
One in five Americans has experienced identity theft; one-third of Americans have never even looked at their credit report. As the pandemic continues to aide in the increase of online shopping and as tax season gets into full swing, it’s important now- more than ever- to be extremely cautious and protect your identity.
Here are a few more tips to help you stay safe this spring:
- Use complex passwords
- Don’t give out your personal information online
- Use two-factor authentication
- Purchase online through safe, trusted third-party apps like PayPal
- Sign up for credit card usage alerts
- File your tax returns as early as possible
- Use a trusted tax-preparer
Don’t wait until it’s too late, fraudulent unemployment claims and other identity theft scams can happen to anyone at any time. Take the necessary steps and precautions to make sure it won’t happen to you.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.