Identity theft and fraud are on the rise, and the nation’s workforce is being hit especially hard in the form of unemployment benefits fraud. Take for example the following:
A victim discovered through a letter from the U.S. Department of Education that someone posing as him had racked up $15,000 in financial aid. The identity thief filled out applications using the victim’s name, date of birth and Social Security number (SSN), and claimed zero income in order to qualify for the loans. After 10 months and enlisting knowledgeable outside assistance, the victim was finally able to undo the damage inflicted by the thief.
This person’s experience contains some valuable lessons for others affected by unemployment fraud.
- There’s no silver bullet for finding out you’re a victim. Some learn about it from their employer, others from the IRS or other government agencies. Many people don’t discover they’re victims until they receive final warning letters about paying off student loans or other fraudulent debts. By the time the victim is aware of what’s going on, the thief is likely long gone, having made off with thousands of dollars.
- Fraud timelines vary (vastly). Little is set in stone when it comes to unemployment benefits fraud. Victims may receive communications from collections departments that demand payment in only a few days. Sometimes the time to resolve fraud cases stretches into many months, or even years. Activity can easily be months old by the time the victim becomes aware of it, and this makes tracking down the necessary information to report and resolve the fraud much more difficult.
- Victims should go beyond the police report. While a police report is necessary, victims should augment their reporting to include a couple of other organizations. A complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will add the incident to a database used by law enforcement to investigate fraud. Victims will also want to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), as most unemployment claims are submitted online. The unemployment office in the state the claim was filed should be notified as well.
- Identifying unemployment fraud requires research. Fortunately, victims have a couple of useful avenues available to them in their search for information. The Social Security Administration can provide earning statements showing any unemployment reported under an individual’s SSN. In addition, victims can request a Full File Disclosure from LexisNexis. These reports show employment history, and are helpful in identifying if someone has been employed under the victim’s SSN.
- Pulling a credit report is only one step in monitoring ongoing activity. In addition to obtaining credit reports from Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, victims should add fraud alerts and credit monitoring from all three bureaus to identify any potential changes over time. Victims should also check with their HR departments, insurance companies, or financial institutions to see if they’re offered identity management services. These services will work to resolve incidences of identity theft and proactively monitor for fraud activity.