Don’t be a Victim of Unemployment Benefits Fraud

December 02, 2020

Illinois identified more than 120,000 counts of unemployment insurance fraud in August. This number will likely increase as more people file for unemployment due to the pandemic’s impact on businesses.

Unemployment benefits fraud isn’t new—in 2018, 14.4 million Americans were affected. But considering current unemployment rates, it really pays (literally!) to be extra vigilant right now to protect your personal information.

What is unemployment benefits fraud?

This type of fraud happens when an individual steals your identity and then collects your unemployment benefits. If you’re unemployed and struggling to pay bills, the last thing you need is for someone to siphon away your money—while using your name to do it.

Are you still working? Individuals who haven’t filed for unemployment benefits can be victims, too. Most individuals are finding out that they are victims by either being contacted by their current employer who was informed they filed unemployment, or by the unemployment office.

How can I avoid being a victim?

It can be difficult to 100% prevent your personal info from being stolen, but there are ways to protect yourself.

  • Credit check. Ask the three credit bureaus to monitor your credit, request notice of any changes, or put a freeze on your accounts. Be sure to take advantage of free credit reports from each agency and stagger them at intervals throughout the year. (E.g., Equifax in January, Experian in April, TransUnion in August.)
  • Card guard. Most credit card companies will monitor suspicious activity. Discover allows you to activate free alerts, Visa has an anti-fraud detection system, and MasterCard employs a variety of ways to protect accounts from illegal activity.

  • Password protection. The average person has as many as 70 online account passwords! Use secure, unique passwords for each account and be sure to protect all your devices with anti-virus programs, firewalls, and spyware detectors.

  • Beware! Always use caution when clicking on links or attachments in emails from unknown senders, and never give personal information over the phone or online. The Social Security Administration won’t ever ask for your social security number, and banks will NOT call to ask for passwords or PIN numbers.

I think I’ve been scammed. What now?

Fraudsters are sneaky clever about scoring personal information. If you think yours has been compromised, know that there are measures in place to help. Visit the Federal Trade Commission's website to report identity theft and begin a recovery plan. Be sure to also contact your bank's fraud department.

Whether you’re collecting unemployment insurance now or think you may in the future—and even if your job is currently secure—use these tips to keep your personal information (and your cash!) out of scammers’ hands.

This content is for informational purposes only. Readers should under no circumstances rely upon this information as a substitute for their own research or for obtaining specific advice from their own counsel.