Of Ohio’s 389,000 unemployment claims filed in February, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) believes about one in four are fraudulent.1 While this figure is troubling, you may be wondering how the issue could affect you.
Criminals are using data stolen in prior data breaches to assume someone else’s identity and gain access to unemployment benefits. Nationwide, an estimated $63 billion in unemployment benefits have been improperly paid out due to fraud or errors since March 2020.2 For the victims of fraud, the effects can be both scary and frustrating:
- A victim may have applied for legitimate benefits, which may be delayed or denied due to fraudulent use of their identity.
- Victims are at risk for further fraud. Criminals are using personal information – including social security numbers – to file a fraudulent unemployment claim. Their access to this information doesn’t stop after they use it once. They could commit other acts of fraud, such as opening a bank account in your name, but under their control.
Often, fraud is not discovered until it’s too late. You may get unemployment documents in the mail for benefits you didn’t claim, receive a call from a confused current employer, or find your legitimate claim to unemployment benefits is denied when applying.
How to Protect Yourself
1. Stay Alert
Suspicious mail, social media requests, or emails could be an attempt to gather your personal information. Never provide personally identifiable information (PII) to an unknown sender.
NOTE: Do not give out personal information unless you know it is secure and you initiated contact. GECU will never initiate contact (phone, email, or text) asking you to update, validate, or provide personal information.
Stop unwanted calls before they start by blocking unknown callers on your phone. Refer to this guide from the FTC to learn how.
It’s always a good idea to monitor your account or credit card activity through online or mobile banking, or monthly statements. Doing so helps you spot unauthorized transactions related to unemployment benefits. If you do see an unauthorized transaction, contact your financial institution to discuss your options. In some cases, you may be advised to close your account and open a new one.
2. Shred Documents
If you still receive paper documents from your financial institution or insurance provider, shred them before throwing them out. Doing so will limit the number of opportunities a criminal has for stealing your information.
3. Report It
If you are a victim of unemployment fraud report the identity theft to the ODJFS and complete this secure online form. They will conduct an investigation and issue corrections to the IRS if necessary.
The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to stay educated on the subject. Visit the Ohio Attorney General’s website to learn more about identity theft; and monitor your credit report and bank accounts for red flags related to unemployment fraud.
- Identity Theft: What It Is and How to Reduce Your Risk
- A Retiree's Guide to Donating During the Pandemic
- 7 Features to Increase Your Online and Mobile Banking Security
1 Riva, Chris. “New Jobless Claims Mean New Cases of Unemployment Fraud.” Https://Www.fox19.Com, 25 Feb. 2021, www.fox19.com/2021/02/25/new-jobless-claims-means-new-cases-unemployment-fraud/.
2 Sell, Sarah Skidmore, and The Associated Press. “Unemployment Fraud: How to Tell If You Are a Victim-and What to Do about It.” Fortune, Fortune, 16 Mar. 2021, fortune.com/2021/03/16/unemployment-benefits-fraud-us-unemployed-claims-us-taxes-2020-billions-in-aid-signs-what-to-do-if-data-identity-stolen/.