COVID Feature: No Time to Gamble

Unemployment claim form on an office table.

Nevada is the latest in a string of states to report increased amounts of identity theft due to the coronavirus pandemic. While Nevada is known for legalized gambling, this is no time to be taking chances when it comes to safeguarding personal information.

Thanks to Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich, a COVID-19 task force has been formed. Made up of local, state, and federal agencies, the task force is dedicated to sharing resources with the intention of identifying and prosecuting COVID-19 related frauds.

There’s no doubt that fraudsters are seeking opportunities to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for their own financial gain. The task force has received a significant amount of reports that personal information of present and former Nevada residents have been used to file and fraudulently collect unemployment benefits.

These false claims take away money that would have gone to the thousands of Nevadans who have lost their jobs and are facing legitimate financial hardships. (Fraudsters only care about lining their own pockets at the expense of others.)

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they’ve been a victim of identity theft until they receive a letter regarding benefits they never applied for, or their employer is notified of their pending application for unemployment benefits despite being gainfully employed. (That must make for an awkward chat at the water cooler.)

The FBI encourages anyone who believes they are a victim of identity theft to submit a report through their online Crime Complaint Center. Additionally, if you think someone is using your Social Security number, call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Consider these tips to protect yourself from identity theft and potential unemployment scams:

  • Never give out financial or personal information over the phone.
  • Frequently review your financial statements for suspicious activity.
  • Regularly update security passwords.
  • Shred important paperwork before discarding.
  • Be wary of people calling to validate personal information over the phone.
  • Don’t disclose personally identifying information through email.
  • Always confirm the authenticity of a caller or email sender requesting your personal information.

Most companies or service providers do not need your Social Security Number or other sensitive financial information. Unless you can confirm that a government agency, financial institution, or other trusted company is asking for personal information, do NOT give out any information at all.

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Nevada COVID-19 Task Force provides guidance for victims of unemployment benefits fraud,” posted on  on July 22, 2020.

Nevada’s COVID-19 Task Force, formed by Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich, has recently received reports suggesting that personal identifying information of some present and past Nevada residents is being used to file fraudulent applications for unemployment benefits.

Potential victims typically learn of these suspected unlawful activities when either they receive a letter from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) relating to an application for benefits they never sought, and/or their employer receives a similar notification from DETR.

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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.