Over the course of the last year, there has been an overwhelming increase in unemployment fraud throughout the United States. Losses are being reported in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars. Locally, it appears thus far that the illicit activity cannot be tied to any specific group but is widespread. Other states have tied some of the activity to a well-organized Nigerian fraud ring with a substantial database of personal identifying information and hundreds or thousands of involved suspects.
A nationwide trend has been recognized in which the fraudulent benefit claims have been submitted using the Personal Identifying Information of first responders, government personnel and school employees. Detectives with the Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Springs Police Department are aware of these schemes and are working with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, as well at the U.S. Secret Service on how best to address these issues. Several employees of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office have already seen claims made without their knowledge.
If you receive information about an unemployment claim you did not file or a U.S. Bank ReliaCard debit card absent a claim, it is important you do the following:
- Go to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment website to report the fraud
- Report the fraud to the FTC via Identitytheft.gov
- File a police report. This can be accomplished online with most local jurisdictions. For the Colorado Springs Police Department: https://coloradosprings.gov/police-department/page/report-crime-online and for the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office: https://www.epcsheriffsoffice.com/services/file-crime-report-online.
- File a police report. This can be accomplished on-line with most local jurisdictions
- Create a file to keep any records related to the fraud and your efforts in one place
- Go to one of the three major credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your name and SSN
- Fraud alerts are shared between the bureaus
- When you do this, use the time to print your credit report. Due to the increase in fraud during the Wuhan (CoVid-19) virus pandemic, each of the three bureaus is offering free weekly credit reports via annualcreditreport.com.
General tips for avoiding identity theft:
- Identity theft protection services can be a tremendous benefit. Most major bank or credit card companies offer credit monitoring services, but you should consider spending a little to go a step further than basic monitoring.
- Keep your financial documents and records in a safe place, a locked safe or safe deposit box is a good idea.
- Limit what you carry with you. Leave your SSN card locked at home. Don’t leave any important documents in your vehicle, ever.
- Read your credit card and bank statements, know your payment due dates, shred any documents with personal or financial information.
- Use strong passwords for email, online banking, social networking, etc. Keep your computer anti-virus protection up to date and ensure multiple software programs aren’t conflicting with each other.
- Never give any personal identifying information over the phone or email, particularly if you didn’t initiate the contact.
- Consider opting out of prescreened credit card offers. This can be done at www.optoutprescreen.com.