Hundreds of public school employees had their identities stolen as part of a scheme to claim fraudulent unemployment benefits. (Whoever said imitation is the best form of flattery is definitely mistaken in this case.). The employees are part of an unemployment scam targeting members of the tri-city school system in Washington which encompasses Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland.
Under the scam, the fraudsters steal the identities of the school employees and set up fake unemployment accounts using their information. They then have the unemployment benefits routed to their own bank accounts with the victim none the wiser. (The state pays the price and the fraudsters reap the rewards.)
The Employment Security Department estimates that the suspected fraudsters have collected nearly 1.6 million in unemployment benefits between March and April. (A quick and very illegal way to become a millionaire.) They are working closely with law enforcement agencies, banks, credit unions, and the U.S. Department of Labor to monitor fraudulent activity and prevent more funds from being stolen. It is suspected that this scam is targeting those who had their information exposed during the 2017 Equifax data breach (Victims of one scam are more likely to become prey for another.)
The victims of the identity theft are often unaware of the fraudulent activity until their employers question them as to why they’re filing for unemployment. School officials are now urging employees to take preventive measures to help protect their identities such as linking their Social Security number to their email address. If one suspects fraudulent activity has been made in their name, they can request a free credit report or report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Over 300 Tri-Cities school employees are victims of unemployment scam,” published by Tri-City Herald on May 23, 2020.
Hundreds of Tri-Cities school employees are victims of identity theft after fraudsters set up fake unemployment accounts to steal money from the state.
About 160 Pasco school employees and 125 from Kennewick reported that scam artists created the false accounts using their information. Richland school employees also were affected, but it’s unclear how many.