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June 8, 2020 Fraud Prevention Joshua Williams

Identity Theft and Unemployment Fraud

Fraud is on the rise, and this time criminals are targeting a system that many Americans desperately need – state unemployment benefits.

As COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders spread through the US, unemployment sky-rocketed. Scammers and fraudsters took notice and increased their criminal behavior, striking those who are most vulnerable. In this article, we take a closer look at this scam and give you some helpful tips to protect yourself.

How the Scam Works

Fraudsters obtain personally identifiable information from unsuspecting individuals through identity theft and use that information to apply for unemployment benefits. Here’s the twist: the criminals then have the funds deposited into the bank accounts of different victims from different states. They then persuade the victims to transfer the money into their hands via lies, manipulation or the promise of money.

What to do if You Receive a Fraudulent Deposit

If you receive an unemployment deposit for which you did not apply, contact Workers Credit Union immediately to help you return the funds. This not only thwarts the fraudster, it also gets the money back to the state where it can be used for legitimate unemployment claims filed by people in need. Do not spend the money as you will ultimately be responsible for repaying it.

Red Flags

Contact Workers Credit Union if you receive:

  • A deposit that contains a name other than your own or that of someone in your household.
  • An unemployment deposit for which you did not apply.
  • An email or a phone call from what appears to be a state’s Unemployment Department for the US Department of Labor, when you have not applied for or inquired about unemployment.

Tips to Protect Yourself

  • If you are called unsolicited and asked for personal information, do not share anything, then notify the authorities.
  • If you have not applied for unemployment benefits, be wary of any communications from unemployment agencies or departments of labor.
  • If you receive deposits that you are not expecting, call Workers Credit Union immediately. Do not withdraw the funds, as they are likely fraudulent.
  • Do not rely on contact information provided via an unsolicited call, email, text, or social media. Go to your state’s official unemployment website.
  • If you are asked for your bank account information by anyone because they don’t have an account and need yours to receive funds, do not share your information. The unemployment office can disperse their funds through other channels. Do not take bribes such as giving you a cut for your trouble.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Question: The Unemployment Department called me and asked for my email/information so that they can assist me in applying for benefits. Is this something that they would do?
    • Answer: No, you have to proactively apply for unemployment benefits with your state, they will not contact you. If someone calls you, do not give them any of your personal information.
  • Q: I noticed that I received a deposit in my account for unemployment benefits but I am still working of have not applied for these benefits. What should I do with the funds?
    • A: Do not withdraw the funds as they are not yours, and you will ultimately be responsible for paying them back. Contact Workers Credit Union as soon as possible as we can help return the funds to the unemployment department.
  • Q: I just realized that I might have received unemployment funds that do not belong to me and spent them not knowing they were part of an unemployment scam. What should I do?
    • A: Contact Workers Credit Union for assistance.

Helpful Resources

Below are official links that you can visit to obtain more information on how to apply for unemployment benefits.

U.S. Department of Labor

List of Individual States’ Websites

U.S. Department of Labor Fraud Hotline