GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — As unemployment claims have increased across the nation, unfortunately there has been a significant spike in fraudulent activity as well, according to a news release from Ohio Valley Bank.
”This issue is impacting individuals and businesses everywhere, including at the local level,” the release stated. “The FBI attributes the spike in fraud to the increase in claims filed due to the pandemic.”
According to the OVB Risk Department, the bank has identified a large number of fraudulent claims and the number continues to increase.
“Fraud and scams continue to be on the rise during the pandemic. OVB, as well as other businesses, have seen examples where fraudulent unemployment claims are being attempted at both small and large businesses. The information used by the scammers is limited but can be partially accurate information, such as name,” Ryan Jones, OVB senior vice president, chief risk officer, said. “If one is a victim to a fraudulent unemployment claim, we suggest you contact Job and Family Services Fraud Department and your local police department to report the activity. Every consumer needs to be aware of the various methods used to obtain personal information through social media platforms, emails and phone calls. Do not provide any personal information to someone who contacted you ‘out of the blue.’ If you question the conversation, do a call back before you give any information out over the phone or email.”
In these instances of fraud, scammers are using the IDs of individuals to apply for unemployment. To make their case, scammers claim that the employer is someone the victim of identity theft is currently working for or recently retired from. According to the FBI, scammers use a variety of techniques to obtain the victim’s information, including the following methods: online purchases of stolen personally identifiable information; 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.
Typically the victim does not become aware of the situation until their employer asks them why they filed the unemployment claim or until they try to file a claim for unemployment insurance only to receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency. In some cases victims may receive an IRS form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance. The information contained with the fraudulent claim is quite limited and usually only includes a name and the last four digits of the victim’s tax ID.
Again, if a person believes they may be a victim of this scam, they should contact law enforcement and report the incident to the local Job and Family Services as well as the current employer. In addition, victims are advised to contact the three major credit bureaus to get a fraud alert placed on their credit records. Victims are also encouraged to notify the Internal Revenue Service by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit. For more information, visit http://www.irs.gov/.
The FBI advises individuals to be aware of the following red flags, which could indicate they have been a victim of the unemployment claim scam:
· 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 inquiries related to unemployment benefits.
· Fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies.
Businesses should also be aware of these fraudulent claims. If a claim is received, local Job and Family Services will contact the business to verify the victim’s employment. Businesses are advised to verify the employee’s address as the scammer often uses a different address as they would be the ones seeking to receive payment. While most larger companies seem to be targeted, all businesses can be impacted by this scam.
In the event that a check was issued before verifying with the victim’s employer, businesses should contact Job and Family Services immediately to request a stop payment.
To avoid becoming a victim yourself, monitor your bank account regularly for fraudulent activity. In addition, be wary of phone calls, text messages, letters or emails that require you to input personal information, such as social security numbers. In addition, as always, be cautious when opening attachments or clicking on links.
Information provided by Ohio Valley Bank.