FBI warns consumers about increase in fraudulent unemployment claims

finger pressing red key labeled SCAM ALERT on computer keyboard

The FBI has alerted consumers about a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims filed using stolen identities.

“U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online,” a July 6 FBI press release stated. “The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods.”

Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals, according to the FBI.

The FBI advises consumers to be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:

  • receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for unemployment benefits;
  • unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits;
  • any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance;
  • unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits; and
  • fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies.

The FBI also provided tips to help individuals protect themselves:

  • be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers; and be cautious with attachments and embedded links within email, especially from an unknown email sender.
  • make yourself aware of methods fraudsters are using to obtain personally identifiable information and how to combat them;
  • monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis and request your credit report at least once a year to look for any fraudulent activity, and if you believe you are a victim, review your credit report more frequently;
  • immediately report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider; and
  • if you suspect you are a victim, immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records, and, additionally, notify the IRS by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) through  irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.

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