Responding to the growing trend of hackers using stolen personal information to fraudulently collect unemployment insurance benefits, the federal government launched a website to help victims fight back.
The website, launched Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), contains information about unemployment insurance identity theft, as well as how and where victims can report stolen benefits.
Pandemic relief programs have broadened eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, and the DOL said Monday that organized criminal groups have taken advantage of the increased number of filings to fraudulently collect benefits across multiple states using personal information stolen in past data breaches.
Unfortunately, this is common, too, with nearly 30% of claims being fraudulent, according to one estimate. The end result is that criminal networks from around the globe have bilked more than $200 billion from U.S. pandemic unemployment programs via the dark web since the start of the pandemic, while also wreaking havoc on the obsolete technology powering state unemployment systems and causing delays for legitimate claims.
Most fraud victims are unaware that someone has filed a claim or collected benefits in their name illegally, the DOL said, with many only discovering something was amiss when they received unexpected mail like a payment or a tax form for benefits they didn’t get.
The DOL recommends reporting unemployment identity theft that occurred during the pandemic to the state where it occurred and to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud. If you believe you are a victim, check your credit report for suspicious activity and, when filing income taxes, only include income you actually received.
“We understand that victims of unemployment insurance fraud are scared, confused and deeply frustrated,” Suzi LeVine, principal deputy assistant secretary for employment and training at the DOL, said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to working with state workforce agencies and our federal and state partners across government to ensure these victims have access to the resources they need along with help to clearly guide them through this difficult situation and show them how to report fraud.”