Unemployment fraud is on the rise and is a concern for everyone, whether you are employed or not. Within two weeks of the implementation of the new CARES Act benefits, 600 million dollars were received fraudulently in just the state of Washington alone. 1 Steps were taken to greatly reduce the potential for fraud in Washington state, but not all the states followed suit. Due to increased unemployment claims because of the pandemic, the system is swamped with new applications. Applications are not receiving the same timely oversight, so the benefits may be disbursed to the defrauder before its discovered. Initial unemployment claims often cover previous months in arrears, so the first payment may be for a large sum.
Your employer will likely be the first to know that fraud is occurring. Employers are notified when an employee has filed for unemployment, they then have ten days to verify and dispute the claim. It's crucial that employers review these claims and reply in a timely manner; otherwise, the benefits may be paid out before the fraud is discovered. A debit card is mailed to the address on the application, so an employee may not even know those benefits have been paid out under their name until down the road.
Fraudulent unemployment applications can be submitted when a person’s social security number and driver’s license number are accessed by a criminal. In the age of data breaches, this is unfortunately a real concern. Those two pieces of data and your job history is all that is needed to file, so it's important to be sure to take steps to protect yourself.
How to protect your identity online
Protect your passwords.
One of the largest risks to your identity occurs when internet passwords are compromised. Using the same passwords on multiple websites increases your risk if that password is compromised. Check out the guidelines for passwords released by the NIST for best practices.2 If you can, use multifactor authentication. This adds an extra step of safety and will also alert you if someone else is trying to access your accounts.
Review your Credit Reports
The three major credit bureaus are required to provide to you a free copy of your credit report annually which you can access from www.annualcreditreport.com. These reports allow you to verify what lines of credit are open under your name, and any blemishes on your record. These bureaus also provide monitoring services you can elect. This will alert you if someone tries to open a line of credit in your name.
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