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Could You be a Victim of Unemployment Benefits Fraud?

Published July 24, 2020

The United States Secret Service has put out alerts announcing an increase in fraudulent unemployment benefits claims since the COVID-19 pandemic started in America. Unemployment offices all over the country have seen huge numbers of unemployment claims this year but in Washington, Florida, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and North Carolina as many as 30% of those claims are fake.

With the economic distress the pandemic has caused, many unemployed people need government benefits to pay their bills. The agencies are trying to help by getting claims processed quickly. However, the short turnaround time and the high volumes of claims make it easy for the fraudsters to steal government benefits.

The fraudulent claims are mostly coming from a crime ring. The group of hackers gathers personally identifying information in several ways. Sometimes they can find data on the dark web. Other times, they hack into business email servers or accounts and obtain the information by simply asking co-workers or employees for it in an email. An email appearing to be from the owner of a company asking for an employee’s social security number for “verification purposes” is an example of this.

Once they have personal information, the crime ring files claims with the unemployment office and obtains the benefits by using money mules. A money mule is a person whose bank account is used by others to transfer money. Money Mules are often victims themselves, tricked in to believing they are just doing a favor for a long-distance love interest or online friend.

Many Americans are being dragged into the criminal activity. U.S. citizens are the victims of identity theft for the purpose of unemployment benefits fraud which can be especially challenging if those victims file real claims with the unemployment office. Others have unwittingly performed illegal transfers of unemployment benefits to accounts overseas – thus becoming money mules.

Protect yourself with the tips below:

  • Sign up for private services that monitor for suspicious activity under your name that could be attempted identity theft.
  • Keep your private information off the Internet as much as possible.
  • Don’t include personally identifiable information such as account numbers or a social security number in emails or texts.
  • Don’t agree to accept deposits for others or transfer money to their accounts.
  • If you receive notifications from the unemployment office about a claim you didn’t file, call and inform them immediately.
  • If you discover credit, debit, prepaid cards or bank accounts in your name that you did not open, call the companies and have the account(s) closed immediately. You should also notify state or local police or the incident.

Here at Centennial Bank we are committed to protecting our customers from identity theft and to spotting fraudulent activity. We generate multiple reports to examine potential fraudulent account activity daily. Suspected money mule accounts and other types of fraud are investigated thoroughly. Call our customer care center at (888) 372-9788 to hear more about the precautions we take to ensure information security and legality of account activity.

To learn more about preventing and spotting fraud and identity theft visit our Information Security page here.

Centennial Bank, Member FDIC.

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