Someone Claimed Unemployment in My Name. What Should I Do?

Share this:

Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

In this article:

    Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.

    See pricing
    Share this:

    Jobless Claims Siphoned Away Over $163 Billion in 2021

    Has someone claimed unemployment benefits in your name? You’re not alone.

    The U.S. government created the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program to offer temporary financial support to people seeking jobs. However, since 2020, identity thieves have exploited the system to pilfer over $163 billion in UI scams.[*]

    With large-scale job losses at its heels, the pandemic forced the government to provide additional support. Fraudsters weren’t far behind. With your Personal Identifiable Information (PII), identity thieves can apply for UI benefits they’re not entitled to — like the 28-year-old from Virginia who collected almost $500,000 in UI funds after filing fraudulent jobless claims for at least 37 people.[*]

    This article will explain how unemployment fraud occurs and what to do if someone claims benefits in your name.

    How Does Unemployment Fraud Happen?

    “Someone claimed unemployment in my name." There were more than 5,000 monthly searches for this phrase on Google in January 2021, at the height of the pandemic. 

    UI benefits fraud is a common type of identity theft that can happen to anyone who doesn’t protect their personal information. This can include information like your Social Security number (SSN), phone number, or date of birth.

    Scammers can get ahold of your personal information through many methods. Mail theft, phishing emails, marketplaces on the Dark Web, and data breaches are a few examples. 

    Here are four ways fraudsters can use stolen PII to defraud the government’s Unemployment Insurance benefits program.

    • Multi-state claimants
    • Social Security numbers of “claimants” who are deceased
    • Claims made in the names of ineligible federal inmates
    • Claimants with suspicious email accounts

    Multi-state claimants

    Illegitimate multi-state claims are common UI fraud occurrences. Identity thieves can reuse your personal information (PII) to make claims in multiple states, getting in the way of bonafide claims.

    Often, the thieves aren’t even in the country. A Nigerian engineering student estimates he pocketed $50,000 from unemployment benefits meant for out-of-work Americans.[*] Scammers like these often congregate on apps like Telegram which peddle how-to advice about identity theft.

    Social Security numbers of “claimants” who are deceased

    If the family has not reported a death, government payments will continue — and thieves can intercept these stimulus payments. Scammers can obtain the SSNs of deceased people and use the numbers to run Unemployment Insurance scams. 

    In 2020, a 43-year-old man and a co-conspirator were found guilty of stealing almost $1 million from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program.[*]

    The group invented synthetic identities using SSNs stolen from children, new immigrants, and even the deceased. Armed with these fake identities, they applied for Small Business Administration-backed loans meant for COVID-19 relief. 

    📚 Related: Can You Change Your Social Security Number? (How-To Guide)

    Claims made in the names of ineligible federal inmates

    Federal inmates are ineligible for unemployment benefits in the United States. The State Workforce Agencies (SWAs), however, may overlook details — like whether an applicant is incarcerated — due to SWAs’ crushing processing volumes.

    A woman serving a life prison sentence led a gang that claimed over $2 million in California Unemployment Insurance benefits.[*] Most of the theft was carried out by using stolen identities — many of which belonged to California prison inmates.

    Claimants with suspicious email accounts

    Fraudsters may use multiple email accounts with strange addresses to run their scams while remaining anonymous. Foreign email accounts or randomly-generated addresses make it hard for law enforcement to clamp down on scammers.

    A Nigerian politician used several variations of the same email address to file fake unemployment benefits in 11 U.S. states.[*]

    Google disregards periods between words when routing emails to a Gmail account, but SWA servers treat each variation as a unique email address. This ploy enabled the scammer to file and manage multi-state claims from a single email account.

    Take action: If scammers have enough of your personal information to claim unemployment in your name, your bank account, email, and identity could also be at risk. Try Aura’s identity theft protection free for 14 days to secure your identity against scammers.

    Someone’s Claiming Your Benefits: Five Glaring Signs 

    When fraudsters have your PII, they can open up credit lines, run bank scams, and even steal your home. All of these types of fraud have warning signs, which begs the question: how do you know if someone has claimed unemployment in your name?

    Unexpected benefits-related paperwork

    It’s always a red flag when you receive unsolicited financial paperwork. If a supposed SWA sends you documents about benefit payments without your request, don’t ignore it. Someone may be trying to abuse your PII to get UI benefits.

    A notice from your employer

    Just as with government entities, your employer will not send you UI paperwork without your requesting it. If your employer sends you UI-related documents, then someone else has already put the unemployment process in motion without your consent.

    Legitimate UI claims are denied

    It can be alarming if you qualify for Unemployment Insurance, only to be denied. But before you assume that you made a mistake or are not eligible, consider the possibility of fraud. If an impersonator already processed benefits in your name, it could be the reason you were denied.

    Receiving UI benefits that you didn’t claim

    Another way to know someone has claimed unemployment in your name is if you receive benefits despite not lodging an application. 

    This surprise UI approval could come in the form of an email or actual letter in the mail. Either way, if you did not apply for benefits yourself, chances are someone has committed fraud against you.

    Your 1099-G form shows multi-state UI income

    Most people who file for unemployment will only do so in one state. If you only apply for UI in your home state, but your 1099-G form indicates that you are receiving benefits in various states, you are likely a victim of fraud.

    A criminal may have applied for UI in another state, hoping that you won’t flag it because you still receive your original benefits.

    Take action: If you accidentally give scammers your personal data (or its leaked in a data breach), they could take out loans in your name or empty your bank account. Try an identity theft protection service to monitor your finances and alert you to fraud.

    Someone Claimed Unemployment in My Name — What Can I Do?

    If you believe you were the victim of unemployment fraud, all is not lost. While there's no guarantee you'll catch the perpetrator, it's crucial to take action to limit the damage to your credit and to help authorities clear your name.

    Here are 12 steps you can take:

    1. Contact your state unemployment office
    2. For multi-state claims, contact each state’s unemployment office
    3. Alert your employer
    4. File an identity theft report with the FTC
    5. File a police report
    6. Submit a complaint with the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF)
    7. Place a fraud alert
    8. Freeze your credit
    9. Monitor your credit reports and financial statements
    10. File your taxes early
    11. Protect your privacy online
    12. Report fake UI benefits websites

    1. Contact your state unemployment office

    The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Unemployment Insurance programs are managed through a network of nationwide offices.

    If you think someone has claimed unemployment benefits in your name, the first thing you should do is get in touch with your local office to report the fraud.

    Here’s how you do it:

    2. Do the same for multi-state claims

    Criminals may have made fraudulent claims in your name across multiple states. In this case, you must contact the state unemployment office for each state where the illegal UI claims were filed.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Request a free credit report from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. 
    • Review the credit reports for any suspicious activity in other states. For example, see if someone opened a credit card or out-of-state bank account in your name. 
    • Check your mail and email for any warning signs of identity theft. Look out for mail from a government agency about an unemployment claim or payout. 
    • Contact the unemployment office for every state in which you believe there may be fraudulent activity in your name. Request a 1099-G form to check for multi-state UI income.

    3. Alert your employer

    When someone files for unemployment in your name, the consequences also impact your employer. Keep them in the loop so they can submit timely reports that substantiate your complaint.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Communicate with your company in writing, such as via email. This approach creates a paper trail that demonstrates you responsibly informed your employer of the fraud.
    • Request a meeting with your supervisor and the HR department. 
    • Store all evidence of the communications in a secure place, like a locked safe.

    4. File an identity theft report with the FTC

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for enforcing U.S. antitrust laws and promoting consumer protection.

    As an independent agency of the United States government, they help people report fraud and recover from the impact of identity theft.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • File an identity theft report with the FTC by visiting www.identitytheft.gov.
    • Use the report as evidence if you need to notify creditors and other affected parties about other types of identity theft committed in your name. 
    • Store the FTC report in a secure place along with any additional evidence of the fraud.

    5. File a police report

    Filing a report with a local police department is a crucial step in recovering from Unemployment Insurance fraud. You could help authorities investigate the crime and prevent others from falling victim. 

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Do an online search for “file a police report + (your city or municipality).” 
    • Follow your local police department’s instructions.
    • Keep a copy of the police report with your other evidence of the UI fraud.

    6. Submit a complaint to the National Center for Disaster Fraud

    The National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) is an agency within the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Criminal Division. They focus on criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies. 

    The huge expansion in disaster funds during the pandemic presented an increased opportunity for scammers to claim Unemployment Insurance benefits.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • File a report with the DOJ by completing the NCDF complaint form.
    • Make sure not to include your SSN, credit card numbers, passwords, or other sensitive information.
    • Write "Someone claimed unemployment in my name" on the form to route the complaint to the correct department.

    📚 Related: 7 Ways to Spot FEMA Scams and Protect Your Relief Money

    7. Place a fraud alert with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion

    A fraud alert is a warning on your credit report alerting creditors that your PII may be compromised.

    As a result, creditors should contact you by phone to verify your identity and get verbal consent before proceeding with any credit applications.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Contact one of the three credit bureaus to request a fraud alert on your credit report.
    • Don't worry about calling all three bureaus. The agency you call must inform the other two credit reporting agencies, which are duty-bound to place a fraud alert on your report.
    • Remember, a fraud alert will last one year. After this time, you can renew the fraud alert by contacting one of the bureaus again.

    📚 Related: How to Remove a Fraud Alert (Step-by-Step Guide)

    8. Freeze your credit

    A credit freeze or security freeze, is an anti-fraud measure that limits access to a credit report and stops credit bureaus from sharing consumer data. Once you place a freeze, it locks the data and prevents anyone from opening new credit accounts. 

    Your report will stay sealed until you give the bureau permission to release the data. Freezing your credit is one of the safest things to do when you suspect fraud. It is also a smart step for parents who want to protect their children from identity theft.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Unlike placing a fraud alert, you must individually place a credit freeze on your credit file with each of the three credit bureaus.
    • Be prepared to offer PII, including your name, SSN, and date of birth.
    • Remember, you will not be able to open new accounts, credit cards, or take out loans until you thaw the account. If you're doing this to protect your children, they can lift the freeze when they reach an appropriate age and need to apply for credit.

    📚 Related: Fraud Alert vs. Credit Freeze: Which Can Protect You More?

    9. Monitor your credit reports and financial statements

    Quite often, victims of identity theft don’t realize that they have been targeted until months or even years later. 

    Keeping a close eye on your credit reports and financial statements is the fastest way to spot suspicious activity. Unfamiliar transactions or requests for credit should raise a red flag.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Review your bank accounts, credit card statements, and other bills at least once a month.
    • Order a free annual credit report from one of the bureaus. You can request this from a separate bureau every three months. 
    • Study the documents for any unexplained activity, and make a note of issues that you should report to the authorities.
    Take action: Protect yourself from the risks of identity theft and fraud with Aura’s $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance. Try Aura free for 14 days to see if it’s right for you.

    10. File your taxes early

    According to The National Taxpayer Advocate, tax refund delays rank at the top of all serious threats against taxpayers.[*] The influx of stimulus payments and burgeoning fraud have slowed down tax filing. 

    But the sooner you file your tax returns, the better. Taking quick action gives criminals less time to fraudulently claim benefits or file taxes in your name.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • File your taxes as soon as the IRS starts accepting applications in January. You can use IRS Free File to electronically prepare and file your income tax return for free.
    • Report all legitimate income as accurately as possible to reduce the possibility of fraudulent UI claims. 
    • Protect your information by using an IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN). The IP PIN is a six-digit number that is only known to you and the IRS — which helps prevent tax fraud.

    11. Protect your privacy online

    Hackers can easily crack weak passwords or run scams with your phone number. Phishing emails can lure victims into clicking on malicious links that lead to fake websites or can install malware.

    If you click on the link, you could unwittingly give thieves access to your computer and sensitive information. 

    Here’s how you do it:

    • Use password managers so that you can create and store complex, unique passwords for every online account.
    • Set up two-factor authentication (2FA) on all accounts so that you have an added layer of security.
    • Download a reliable virtual private network (VPN) to keep your online activities hidden from hackers. Aura’s VPN has military-grade encryption to keep you safe. 
    • Learn how to spot phishing emails to prevent bad actors from infiltrating your hard drive or stealing your credit card information.

    12. Report fake UI benefits websites

    Scammers send spam emails and text messages that purport to be from an SWA. These emails encourage people to click on links that then lead them to bogus websites.

    Reporting any suspicious activity around SWA sites can help authorities stop fraudsters in their tracks.

    Here’s how you do it:

    • If you get a suspicious text message or email message that claims to be someone from an SWA, report it to the DOL. You can find the list of state contacts here.
    • Report the scam website to the FTC at https://ReportFraud.ftc.gov. 
    • Keep others safe by spreading the word about the scam and how it works.

    Most Red Flags Are a One-Off — Until They’re Not. Aura Can Help.

    Fraudulent UI claims don’t just get in the way of much-needed financial assistance. They also leave you with the herculean task of proving your innocence until you can finally claim your benefits. 

    Protect your PII by practicing good digital hygiene and learning more about common scams, like phishing and smishing, so scammers don’t catch you off guard.

    If you want the best chance of protecting yourself (and your family) from identity thieves, you can't do better than Aura's credit monitoring and identity theft protection service. 

    Aura provides:

    • Account monitoring: Get near-real-time alerts when your accounts are compromised due to fraudulent activity.
    • VPN and malware protection: Keep all your devices safe from hackers and malware with military-grade encryption and Wi-Fi protection.
    • Credit monitoring: Receive alerts for any suspicious activity faster than competing services.
    • Dark Web scanning: Scan the Dark Web for your personal information, like your credit card numbers or SSN.
    • $1 million insurance policy: Every Aura plan includes insurance coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft.
    Identity theft and unemployment fraud are related. Sign up for Aura and save 50% today

    Related Articles

    unemployment scams and unemployment benefits fraud
    Fraud

    Unemployment Fraud: How Scammers Claim Benefits In Your Name

    Unemployment scams are on the rise with billions stolen in benefits and pandemic relief funds. But what happens when someone makes a claim under your name?

    Read More
    June 2, 2022
    can someone steal your identity with your id
    Identity Theft

    Can Someone Steal Your Identity With Your ID?

    Can someone steal your identity if they have your ID? Unfortunately, yes. Learn how to prevent identity theft if your ID gets lost or stolen.

    Read More
    June 14, 2022

    Try Aura—14 Days Free

    Start your free trial today**

    This is some text inside of a div block.

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers