Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims filed using stolen identities.  People learn about the fraud when they get a notice from their state unemployment benefits office or their current (or former) employer regarding an application for benefits.

If this happens to you, it means that someone has access to your personal information, including your social security number and date of birth.  Here are the steps you can take if a scammer files an unemployment claim in your name.

1. Pull a copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com

Everyone is eligible for a free credit report once per year and can get one more often than that free of charge if you are a victim of identity theft.  Review it for red flags, incorrect information and unfamiliar activity or accounts.

AnnualCreditReport.com was set up by the three major US credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They jointly operate the site, which was set up by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to provide a way for US consumers to receive their reports annually upon request.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.”  Find out more on the FTC https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report

2. Put a “freeze” on your credit at all 3 credit reporting agencies.

A security freeze prevents prospective creditors from accessing your credit file.  When you do this, any new credit cannot be acquired – even if you are the one requesting it.  This can end up being a source of frustration if you forget your credit is frozen and apply for a new credit card or want to refinance your house.

The next time you need to open your credit for something, you will be issued a code that can be used to “unfreeze” your credit files, so it adds an extra step in the process.  You can re-freeze your credit when the home refinance is complete, or the new card is open.  If someone else tries to open a credit card in your name, it will not work because of the security freeze. If you want more information, visit the nationwide credit reporting companies’ websites or call the numbers below:

Equifax: Take control of your Equifax® credit report , (800) 685-1111

Experian: Security Freeze , (888) 397-3742

TransUnion: Credit Help,  (888) 909-8872

3. Notify your bank and investment account providers.

Have your account providers put alerts on your accounts and be on the lookout for suspicious activity.

4. File a report at https://identitytheft.gov

There is a green box near the top right-hand corner of the screen specifically for unemployment claim theft.

5. Notify your state unemployment benefits agency.

Report it in Kansas here:  https://www.dol.ks.gov/fraud

Other state information here:  https://www.worldprivacyforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/wpf_state_unemployment_insurance_fraud_links.pdf

6. Report the fraud to your employer.

Start a log on your phone or in a file, so you can keep a record of who you spoke with and when.  Have the HR department maintain a record or file an internal report on the case.  Sometimes imposters file using a previous employer, not where you are currently working.  This is tricky as the old employer may not know that this claim is fraudulent, so it is important to have a record of the incident.

“When it happens to you, it can be unsettling, disturbing and a complete hassle to say the least.”

Identity theft is becoming more and more common and impacts millions of people every year.  When it happens to you, it can be unsettling, disturbing and a complete hassle to say the least.  Stay calm, notify the proper authorities, and keep a record of documents received and phone calls made during the process.

Even if you are not currently a victim of identity theft, it is a good idea to check your credit report annually and freeze your credit when you don’t need to access it for new loan, credit card, etc.  Being proactive can save you a lot of hassle down the road.

Jamie Bosse, CFP®, RFC is a Financial Planner at Aspyre Wealth Partners. For help with your specific situation contact Jamie Bosse at jbosse@aspyrewealth.com, (913) 345-1881 or visit our website at AspyreWealth.com. We help successful people Master What’s Next® – whatever phase of life they are in.

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