COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has been inundated with reports of fraud from people who have not filed for unemployment benefits, but have received them anyway.
For Vicky Maketa, the company she owns has had a number of former employees file for unemployment, but the name she saw in the mail on Monday shocked her.
“I opened up, I looked at it and was a little surprised to see my own name on it. I did not file for unemployment against my own company,” Maketa said.
With the claim sporting her name came another claim from a former employee that would have charged her company account over $6,000, according to the claim reviewed by FOX21. Maketa checked with the former employee, who left on good terms, and confirmed that he was employed and did not file for unemployment.
With her social security number and business information in the claims, she’s concerned about where her information came from.
“It’s a little scary with what can happen and what people can do with your identity and not know who has this, not knowing where the breach is, how did this information get out there?” Maketa questioned.
CDLE suspects that information used to file fraudulent claims comes from data breaches at companies where credit cards or personal information is taken. That information can be sold illegally, then used to file false claims.
Maketa is one of three business owners she knows that have received fraudulent claims in the mail in the past week. CDLE has taken note as well, noting an increase of fraud reports since December 26, 2020.
“I will tell you that we have seen a pretty significant spike in the number of individuals who are reporting into us that they believe thy have been a victim of identity theft or fraud,” said Cher Haavind of CDLE in a press call on Tuesday.
On December 26 the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the federal CARES Act expired. Haavind says, that was a system more susceptible to fraud.
“Every state saw when the CARES Act expired, criminals leaving that system because it was shut down and focusing their efforts on regular unemployment,” Haavind said.
Unemployment claimants can collect their benefits via direct deposit or a bank card, prefilled with the money that’s owed. CDLE has noticed that current or recent MLS listings as well as addresses recently listed for rent have been listed on some fraud claims—leading the agency to believe that criminals are using those addresses in hopes that no one is routinely checking the mail, so they can grab the cards.
CDLE suggests the following steps for people who think they are victims of fraud or identity theft:
- Deactivate the prepaid card on the U.S Bank form or calling 1-855-279-1678
- Contact the three consumer credit agencies (TransUnion, Experian, Equifax) to file a fraud alert on your name and Social Security Number.
- File a police report. How much police can do varies, but it does create a record of action
- Report Identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission by going to identitytheft.gov
- Create a file to create records of fraud
For Maketa, she’s notifying her employees what has happened, so they can be protected as well.
“I’m going to have to let my employees know that we’re working on it on our end and, hopefully, their information isn’t out there and to do what they can to protect their identity too,” Maketa added.