COVID Feature: It Wasn’t Me

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

Fraudulent unemployment insurance claims are at an all-time high due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While many claims are legitimate, the FBI has detected a spike in fraudulent requests. (Most fraudulent requests involve a fraudster stealing personal information from an unsuspecting victim.) The fraudster then uses the stolen identity to impersonate their victim and submits the online insurance forms. By the time someone realizes their identity has been stolen it’s usually too late.

Personal information can be obtained by schemers using a variety of illegal methods. This includes data breaches, calling victims with a scam that lures them into divulging personal information, and email phishing scams. Fraudsters also purchase already stolen personal information from other criminals. (There’s definitely no honor amongst thieves or fraudsters.)

Identity theft victims don’t often realize they have been victimized until after a crime has already been committed. Sometimes it’s a surprise call from their employer who says an unemployment claim has been filed in their name even though they are gainfully employed, or the IRS has noticed suspicious activity. Unfortunately, a victim often learns they’ve been duped when they try to file an unemployment claim for themselves. (Definitely, a double whammy – no job and your identity has been stolen. Nice.)

Monitoring transactions on your credit card for unauthorized activity can help spot fraudulent activity. There can be fees associated with filing or qualifying for unemployment that could show up on your account. (This might make you change your spending habits when you review how much you buy takeout.)

The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to be wary of phishing scams, phone calls, text messages, and websites that ask for personal information. If an email claims to be from the government and looks suspicious, confirm the authenticity with the agency. You should never divulge personal information through email or text.

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft you can file an Identity Theft Affidavit through irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an press release, “FBI Sees Spike in Fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Claims Filed Using Stolen Identities,” posted by the FBI National Press Office on July 6, 2020.

The FBI has seen a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims complaints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic involving the use of stolen personally identifiable information (PII).

U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online. The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods. Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals.

 

 

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.