How often do you check your mail?  No, I’m not saying “email.”  I mean your actual mail.  Do you check it enough to notice that someone else might be taking some things that belong to you?  In an ABC 27 article, one Pennsylvania native made quite a job out of perfecting an unemployment fraud scheme leaving people wondering who else could have been rummaging through their mail.

With a slew of stolen identities, a Pennsylvania fraudster was able to swindle a little over $94,000 in unemployment compensation benefits by applying for the benefits through the Internet.  (The wonders of what can be done online.)  Following the application process, he would locate the addresses of his victims and remove the debit cards containing the benefits from their mailboxes.  (Is no place sacred?) Upon stealing the cards, the fraudster would then activate and use them to make personal purchases, as well as withdraw cash from the ATM.  (Unemployed?  We have quite the entrepreneur on our hands.)

His get rich quick scheme has now come an end.  A federal judge sentenced the man to spend 54 months in prison, to pay $94,822 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release.

So, here’s the deal:  once upon a time, individuals who applied for government benefits had to do so in person at a government office.  A benefit applicant needed to show a photo ID to a government employee to receive benefits.  The downside was there were long lines, lots of paperwork and a lot of grouchy people on both sides of the counter.  The Internet changed everything, and now applicants for government benefits can apply for most programs online.  And, that’s where the identity thieves have stepped in.

So, what’s the answer?  To stop benefit fraud, agencies must start authenticating and verifying the identities of individuals applying for the benefits BEFORE sending the checks.  And, check your mail.   You never know when you’ll be the victim of a fraud scheme.

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