Beware of unemployment scams targeting stolen identities

News

(WIVB) – The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a number of scams, including one where criminals take advantage of the millions of dollars in new unemployment claims.

One of the schemes seems to be targeting stolen identities. This particular scam seems to be using the identities of people who are not employed- their addresses, Social Security numbers, and other personal information- to apply for unemployment, and then diverting the benefits to a separate bank account.

Joe Goodway received an employment benefit card in the mail- except he’s not unemployed, just on summer hiatus from teaching.

The first clue was a letter he received from the State Labor Department, saying that his benefits could not be directly deposited into an account- likely part of the scam- and would be loaded onto the card.

“At first I thought it was a letter telling me if I were to apply for unemployment benefits this is what I would get,” Goodway told News 4. “My wife told me this looks like somebody already applied for it.”

Goodway would also receive two more notices showing he was entitled to New York’s full weekly unemployment benefit, the other his $600 provided by the government’s CARES Act.

“Our initial thought was that his identity, or whatever had been stolen, maybe somebody got a hold of it,” Goodway’s wife, Julie, said.

So how would a stranger have Goodway’s address and Social Security number?

He suspects that a data breach a few years ago involving his employer’s health insurance might have something to do with it.

There were at least two hacks involving the insurance company’s vendors- and some of his co-workers are dealing with the same notices.

The Goodways say they made more than 200 phone calls to the State Department of Labor to head off the scam, and it appears to be working.

“They cancelled all the benefits to that card, and we never activated that card anyway,” Goodway added.

If you are the target of unemployment fraud, you are urged to report it on the State Department of Labor’s 24-hour hotline at 1-888-598-2077.

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