Identity theft has become increasingly common over the last several years, and with more people collecting unemployment benefits than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a sharp increase in unemployment benefits fraud among our clients.
How do I know if an unemployment claim has been taken out in my name?
When you (or someone pretending to be you) apply for unemployment benefits, you should receive a statement from The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) stating that your application for unemployment has been approved, and/or providing a statement of benefits available. If you receive this communication and have not applied for unemployment benefits, you were likely the victim of a data breach of some kind, which allowed a someone to gain access to your name, address and social security number, and subsequently file a fraudulent unemployment claim on your behalf.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits, the first step you should take is to contact the DUA immediately. Contact information will be provided to you by the DUA. The DUA Program Integrity team will process the reported instance of fraud to ensure that if any payments were made under a fraudulent claim, they are not reported as income that would be taxable to you at the end of the calendar year for tax purposes. It’s also important to note that a reported fraudulent claim should not impact your ability to collect unemployment in the future, should you need to do so.
Additional Steps to Minimize the Likelihood of Further Fraudulent Activity
- Consider filing a police report with your local police department.
- Consider changing passwords on your email, banking and other personal accounts.
- Consider filing Form 14039 with the IRS. This alerts the IRS that you were a victim of identity fraud—for security purposes on future tax filings, they will assign you a unique Pin number that accompanies the filing of your tax return. This Pin number will be subject to change annually going forward.
- Report the fraudulent claim to any creditors and credit agencies and consider putting a credit freeze or alert on your account so that any unusual activity can be closely monitored by you and the respective financial institution for any unusual activity in the future.
- Consider obtaining a copy of your credit report and dispute any fraudulent transactions. A request for a credit report can be made online from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion).
- You can also report the fraudulent claim to other government agencies, including the RMV, Social Security Administration, US Postal Inspection Service, and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.
- Take notes of conversations with all relevant parties, including names of individuals you spoke to and the date of the conversations.
If you have any questions about unemployment benefits fraud, or other types of identity theft, please leave a comment below, or feel free to contact me directly. I’m happy to help.