COVID Feature: It Wasn’t Me

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Unemployment claim form on an office table.

Fraudulent unemployment insurance claims are at an all-time high due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While many claims are legitimate, the FBI has detected a spike in fraudulent requests. (Most fraudulent requests involve a fraudster stealing personal information from an unsuspecting victim.) The fraudster then uses the stolen identity to impersonate their victim and submits the online insurance forms. By the time someone realizes their identity has been stolen it’s usually too late.

Personal information can be obtained by schemers using a variety of illegal methods. This includes data breaches, calling victims with a scam that lures them into divulging personal information, and email phishing scams. Fraudsters also purchase already stolen personal information from other criminals. (There’s definitely no honor amongst thieves or fraudsters.)

Identity theft victims don’t often realize they have been victimized until after a crime has already been committed. Sometimes it’s a surprise call from their employer who says an unemployment claim has been filed in their name even though they are gainfully employed, or the IRS has noticed suspicious activity. Unfortunately, a victim often learns they’ve been duped when they try to file an unemployment claim for themselves. (Definitely, a double whammy – no job and your identity has been stolen. Nice.)

Monitoring transactions on your credit card for unauthorized activity can help spot fraudulent activity. There can be fees associated with filing or qualifying for unemployment that could show up on your account. (This might make you change your spending habits when you review how much you buy takeout.)

The best way to protect yourself from identity theft is to be wary of phishing scams, phone calls, text messages, and websites that ask for personal information. If an email claims to be from the government and looks suspicious, confirm the authenticity with the agency. You should never divulge personal information through email or text.

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft you can file an Identity Theft Affidavit through irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an press release, “FBI Sees Spike in Fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Claims Filed Using Stolen Identities,” posted by the FBI National Press Office on July 6, 2020.

The FBI has seen a spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims complaints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic involving the use of stolen personally identifiable information (PII).

U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online. The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, 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, among other methods. Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals.

 

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.