Abbygale Martinen | April 23, 2021
We have now surpassed a year of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and, with that, a year of Covid-related unemployment claims. With the meteoric rise in unemployment claims and the subsequent new benefits programs, unemployment fraud has been everpresent. The potential cost estimates for unemployment fraud across the country range in the hundreds of billions of dollars. With all of these extra federal unemployment programs, how can you, your company and your employees prevent and respond to potential unemployment fraud?
- Unexpected Communications: If you or your employee receives communications from an unemployment agency (the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security or Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance) that you are not expecting, do not disregard it as junk. Take the time to look at it and report it if it is potentially fraudulent. For example, if the name on the notice is slightly misspelled, if the social security number is off, or if the notice uses a previous legal name, those are all red flags.
- Unauthorized transactions: Unauthorized transactions on your accounts (personal or business) could relate to fraudulent unemployment benefits. Make sure you and your employees develop a habit of consistently checking your accounts and credit cards frequently. In this age of information, it can be easy to forget about an account. If it’s possible, enable push or email notifications for when credit cards are used or when money is withdrawn or deposited in your accounts. This provides you with instant notice if a fraudulent transaction has been made.
- Fees for benefits: Unemployment agencies will not charge claimants to apply for benefits. If you, your employee or your former employee is being asked to pay for an unemployment application, that should be reported immediately.
- Fictitious websites: Some fraudulent actors may even develop fictitious websites that mimic an unemployment agency or government website. Always be mindful of the websites and contacts you make online. Government websites will end with “.gov” and should also be secure, meaning the website will start will “https://”.
Responding to fraud
- Report any unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider.
- Contact the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), to notify them of potential identity theft in order to put a fraud alert on your credit records.
- File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS Form 14039). You can also request an Identity Protection Pin at irs.gov/identitytheft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin. This is a six-digit PIN that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number. You must be able to prove your identity, and the PIN only lasts for one year.
- File a non-emergency police report with your local police department. Please know that this is not the time to call 911, and your local police may not actively investigate your potential unemployment fraud. This is still a good step, however, because it will establish a record of the potential fraud that you can provide to creditors.
- Change all of your passwords. It may not be apparent from where your data was breached, so it is important to make sure you cover all of your bases.
- Follow the steps at identitytheft.gov.
- If you are an employer, notify your employees who might be victims so they can take all necessary precautions. And train your employees on how to identify potential fraud.
You can report fraud to:
- U.S. Department of Labor Office or the Inspector General
- Online Reporting Form at oig.dol.gov/hotline.htm. Hotline phone: 202-693-6999 or 800-347-3756
- U.S. Department of Justice Nation al Center for Disaster Fraud Complaint Online Reporting Form at justice.gov/disaster-fraud/webform/ncdf-disastercomplaint-form. Hotline phone: 866-720-5721
- New Hampshire Employment Security Online Reporting Form: business.nh.gov/NCharge/NHES/default.asp?form_name=InsuranceFraud. Hotline phone: 800-852-3400, ext. 84016.
- If your potential unemployment fraud deals with another state’s workforce agency, the U.S. Department of Labor has a fraud reporting directory for all states on its website, dol.gov/agencies/eta/UIIDtheft.
This article was originally published in the NH Business Review and can be found here.