Unemployment Benefits Fraud - What You Need to Know
There has been a large amount of unemployment benefits fraud hitting the Washington State unemployment system, specifically impostor fraud, according to the U.S. Secret Service. Impostor fraud, as defined by the Washington State Employment Security Department, is when someone illegally files an unemployment claim using another person's personal and employment information.
With more than one million unemployment claims in Washington State, millions of dollars earmarked to help those who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, have gone to a network of fraudsters based in Nigeria, according to the U.S. Secret Service.
Unfortunately, the only way to find out if you have been a victim of this fraud is if you receive a letter from the Washington State Employment Security Department, letting you know that your unemployment claim is being processed. According to the Seattle Times, the fraudsters will have filed a claim using your social security number and other personal information.
If you become a victim of this fraud, you must act quickly. Here are the steps you need to take.
Alert Your Employer or Former Employer
It's important to let your employer or former employer know that unemployment benefits were fraudulently taken out in your name.
Contact the Washington State Employment Security Department
You need to fill out the Washington State Employment Security Department's (ESD) Fraud Reporting Form as soon as possible. You will need the following information to fill out the form:
- How you learned a fraudulent claim was filed on your behalf.
- Your address, date of birth, and phone number.
- The last four digits of your Social Security number.
File a Police Report
It's important to file a non-emergency police report with your local jurisdiction. Having a record of identity theft in the form of a police report may help in the future.
Report Fraud to the Federal Trade Commission
Reporting theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an essential step in stopping fraud. The FTC has put together a resource identitytheft.org that walks you through filing a fraud claim, creating a personal recovery plan, and putting your recovery plan into action.
Alert the Credit Bureaus
You will want to let the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax) know that you have experienced identity theft and fraud and provide them with your police report number and your FTC report number. You freeze your credit.
Change Your Passwords
"Don't use the same password for everything," said Sean Murphy, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Security Officer at BECU. "Out of an abundance of caution, it is always good practice to change your passwords from time to time."
Create a Secure Access Washington Account
You can also use the ESD website to create a Secure Access Washington (SAW) account. According to a recent King 5 article, this will help you claim your social security number as yours and keep fraudsters from collecting unemployment benefits in your name.
Be sure to contact BECU immediately if you suspect your information is compromised or your identity is stolen.