While unemployment insurance fraud has been occurring for many years, the Department of Labor (DOL) has seen a rapid increase of fraudulent insurance claims since March of 2020. When COVID-19 began affecting businesses across the country, many citizens found themselves unemployed. While the DOL expected an increase in unemployment insurance claims, the growth was significantly higher than expected, in part due to fraudulent claims. This forced the DOL to put the pressure on.
The DOL was pressured to provide legitimate unemployment insurance claims with the unemployment insurance funds as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, it proved difficult to differentiate a false claim from a legitimate claim while working at a fast and increased pace. It only takes a minimal amount of personal information to file for unemployment and receive the necessary funds. Depending on the state, someone filing for unemployment insurance may only need to provide information about their former employment and current address.
In a recent article from USA Today, we can see how easy it is for hackers to access databases that list your name, company, social security number, and more. Since your personal information is so easily accessible to hackers, it allows them to file a fraudulent claim pretending to be you and receive your benefits before you even notice. While the DOL, FBI, and other organizations are aware of the fraudulent claims and working on fixing the issues that allow for fraudulent claims, hackers can quickly find a new hole in the system that will enable them to continue.
Sometimes people can go days or weeks without noticing that they have become a victim of unemployment insurance fraud. Following these steps will help you quickly see when you are the victim:
- Open any mail you receive from the IRS. The IRS does not contact you by email or phone, so a letter in the mail should be the most accurate. Make sure the information they are sending you makes sense or is the result of an action you took.
- Regularly check your bank account activity.
- Set-up text alerts with your financial institutions if they offer this feature.
- Monitor your credit report regularly and request fraud alerts in case there is suspicious activity.
While unemployment insurance fraud has increased in numbers, the severity of this crime has not diminished. Unemployment insurance fraud is still a felony and can result in the criminal spending up to five years in state prison, being fined a minimum of $150,000, and being fined for the victim's financial losses. Stay safe by staying aware and protecting your identity!