What to do as the victim of a fraudulent unemployment compensation claim.
Several years ago, I wrote about the Equifax cybersecurity data breach and how to protect yourself and your company from cyber-attacks. As I said then and repeat now, cyberattacks are not going away. They continue to get more complex as cybercriminals become increasingly skillful in cybercrime. Cybersecurity and risk management includes the need for many levels of protection. In addition to protecting yourself and your companies against phishing scams and ransomware attacks, cybersecurity also includes protecting your personal information and responding quickly when it has been compromised.
Recently, I received an employer’s notice from the Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and Industry that Furia Rubel received an unemployment compensation claim against it. The claim was odd knowing that no employees have departed from the company in more than a year. When I started reading the details, however, guess who “applied for unemployment compensation.” Apparently, I did. There it was – my name and the last four digits of my social security number as the claimant. The “claim” also included an accurate statement of my annual salary. I immediately realized that my identity had been compromised.
According to Forbes Advisor, unemployment benefits fraud jumped nearly 3,000% in 2020. It looks like that number may still be on the rise. The Forbes article notes that “scammers continue to target unsuspecting Americans’ unemployment benefits. On March 23, 2021, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the U.S. unemployment system is plagued by $63 billion in fraud and dysfunction.
In a Wall Street Journal article, Unemployment-Benefits Fraud Has Soared in the Pandemic. Here’s What to Do.: Protect your Social Security number and other personal information whether or not you are an identity-theft victim., Kathy Stokes, director of fraud prevention at AARP Fraud Watch Network, which offers free help to consumers said, “you can bet that the personal information of every adult in the U.S. has been exposed. Our data are out there.”
While I was dealing with the fraudulent unemployment compensation claim, I decided to write this post to document what I did to report the fraud and protect my identity, as well as provide resources to others who might encounter the same invasion. While I am a licensed attorney in Pennsylvania, this information should in NO WAY be taken as legal advice or sacrosanct. This is my first time dealing with personal identity theft so I’m in learn-as-I-go mode and documenting it along the way.
Here are some of the things I was advised to do as a victim of a fraudulent unemployment compensation claim.
1: File a police report with the local police department. I did this immediately and was told by the responding officer that he had handled six of these reports in the same day.
2: Run a free credit score report on www.annualcreditreport.com which you can do for free once a year. If you don’t do this annually, you should. I decided to enroll with one of the three top credit reporting companies to put a Fraud Alert on my credit for one year as well. Be sure to:
- Verify that all business names and payment dates are correct in the report’s transaction history;
- Verify that all addresses, additional lines of credit, and accounts are correct;
- Dispute any unfamiliar or incorrect information; and
- Sign up for text scam alerts. In PA, you can sign up at attorneygeneral.gov/consumer-alerts/.
3: Go to your state’s unemployment compensation website and report the fraud.
I went to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation website to report unemployment fraud. One good thing about the site is that it gives you the option to file a report as both the “claimant and employer.” I thought I might have to do this twice. When I got to the question about starting an investigation, I wasn’t able to check any of the pre-written reasons, so I wrote in another reason:
“This is a fraudulent application for unemployment compensation (UC). I, Gina Rubel, am the owner of Furia Rubel Communications, Inc., and at no time did I apply for UC from my own company. I have filed a police report with the Doylestown Township Police Department. The case number is XXXXXXX.”
4: According to the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensations, some may want to file a report of fraud with the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF). When I got to the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Hotline Portal, there is not a category for unemployment compensation that fit my need. The categories include:
- Pay-related complaints, FMLA issues and wage and hour disputes
- Complaints regarding individual pension, health or employee benefits including COBRA
- Current or former federal employees with workers’ compensation claims
- Workplace safety and health issues, or whistleblower retaliation complaints
- S. Department of Labor employees, former employees applicant for employment, etc.
- General DOL-related inquiries that do not involve fraud
5: Create an identity theft recover plan with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once you have the plan, follow all the steps.
6: Request that your employer files an Unemployment Compensation Appeal. As the employer, I had to file the UC appeal on behalf of the company. It didn’t take long but it did have to get done immediately as the “appeal” is time sensitive.
All in, it took me five hours to file all the necessary paperwork, to get a police report, and to review three credit reports to ensure that the cybercriminals did not try to open a bank account in which to deposit fraudulently obtained unemployment compensation checks. Fortunately for me, I did not find any fake accounts. I’m sure there will be more time spent managing this issue too. It’s just one of those things – it happens, and it has to be dealt with
Cybercrimes and fraud are a global criminal enterprise costing billions of dollars not to mention the loss of productivity to the company and the individual. We all must stay vigilant and do our best to thwart the crimes.
Additional Resources for Identity Theft and Unemployment Benefits
- DOL: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/UIIDtheft
- FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/news/pressrel/press-releases/fbi-sees-spike-in-fraudulent-unemployment-insurance-claims-filed-using-stolen-identities
- FTC: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/free-credit-reports
- IRS: https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/identity-theft-and-unemployment-benefits