If there are funds that can be stolen, identity thieves are likely to be at work — and unemployment benefits are no exception. Nearly a third of Americans were affected by benefits fraud schemes in early 2022, with Medicare, Social Security and unemployment insurance often being targeted.
The criminal focus on benefits became pronounced during the pandemic, as fraudsters siphoned an estimated $163 billion in fraudulent payments from the aid intended for those in need. In 2022 the White House estimated that 19% of covid unemployment benefits were fraudulent payments — totaling over $80 billion.
Now that pandemic benefits have ended, fraudsters have taken the lessons they learned to target other unemployment programs. Whether you’re worried about your unemployment benefits being drained when you need them most or you’re concerned about how this fraud costs us all, recognizing the scam is important.
Much like medical identity theft or tax identity fraud, you may not find out about the theft associated with unemployment fraud until much later. Some people only discover they’ve been victims of unemployment identity theft when they file their own claim and their application is rejected because an identity thief maxed out the available funds. Other times, victims learn of the fraud because their employer is notified that their employee has been receiving unemployment benefits.
Additional signs that you may have been affected include:
To protect against this type of unemployment identity fraud, a proactive approach is important. Consider these strategies:
If you receive a 1099-G tax form or an unexpected letter from your state unemployment insurance office that details benefit claims that you have not made, you should report the suspected fraud immediately.
Acting quickly can help stop improper payments and creates a record of your efforts to stop the theft. Once the fraud has been handled, ask your company’s HR department to verify that your employment files are accurate.
By staying vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity in a timely manner, you can help keep unemployment identity theft from compromising your personal information. You might also consider a credit and identity monitoring service like IdentityForce. Not only will it notify you if there is suspicious or fraudulent activity involving your personal information, but it will provide you access to seasoned identity restoration specialists 24/7 if you discover you’re the victim of identity theft.
Government agencies and other public sector organizations need to remain aware and vigilant against fraud. Our recent white paper shows how public sector organizations are in a unique position to help their employees and constituents secure their digital safety. At the same time, they can build greater loyalty and trust in the organization, retain valuable staff, and increase engagement with the organization’s digital programs and services.