When it comes to information shared online, nothing is safe—scammers can easily manipulate your data and turn it into something they can use for fraud.
Rising unemployment fraud cases are a testament to this, as even high-profile celebrities became victims. This is because criminals have sophisticated strategies that they can use to file for underemployment benefits under your name. Unfortunately, these cases can also go undetected for a long time.
With so much at stake, it’s important to remain proactive in protecting your information online and offline.
We reviewed the latest news and stories about unemployment fraud. Unemployment fraud isn't new, but scammers may use new tactics, and it's essential to be aware of it. We also gathered the best tips from experts and reputable sources online.
We’ve found the best—but overlooked—way to detect unemployment fraud. Take care not to miss out on any red flags, though!
What are the signs someone filed for unemployment under your name?
The US government’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides temporary financial support to workers who’ve lost their jobs and met particular eligibility requirements.
Each state has its own department that oversees the UI programs, such as the Employment Development Department (EDD) in California.
While the UI program helps numerous citizens pay for their daily needs as they look for other jobs, scammers are quick to exploit it. By using phishing scams, hacking, and other identity theft methods, criminals have stolen more than $163 billion from the system since 2020.
Criminals can hack into your EDD account and use your EDD card under your name. Because of this, it’s always best to know what to look for.
Once a scammer gains access to your personal identifying information (PII), they can wreak havoc across all your financial accounts.
Here are some signs that someone committed Unemployment Insurance fraud under your name:
1. You’ve received a notification about benefits you didn’t apply for
If you didn't apply for unemployment but got a letter, text message, or email regarding UI benefits, it may indicate that someone else did it under your name. It’s best to contact your employer and local or state unemployment office when you receive these notifications.
2. You’ve received unexpected benefits-related paperwork
Receiving unsolicited financial paperwork is always a red flag. That said, never ignore an SWA who sends you documents about benefit payments without your request. They could be someone attempting to use your PII to access your benefits.
3. You get UI benefits you didn’t apply for
If you receive UI benefits without filing for an application in the first place, act quickly. Someone has access to your personal information and filed for UI under your name.
Although you may be getting the benefits now, they may use your details for fraudulent activities.
4. You’ve received a notice from your employer
Your employer will never send you UI paperwork unless you request it. If they send you a notice about such documents, you're dealing with a scam.
A scammer may have already started the unemployment benefit claim without your knowledge.
5. Your 1099-G form suddenly reflects “multi-state UI income”
If you apply for unemployment, you'll likely only do so in your home state. If your 1099-G form shows that you’re receiving benefits in many states, you’re most likely a victim of fraud. The scammer may have applied in a different state, hoping to get away with it.
6. Your legitimate UI claims are rejected
Not getting the Unemployment Insurance benefits you qualify for can be frightening. Most of the time, it could be an honest mistake from you, your employer, or the unemployment office. However, it's also possible that a scammer has already applied for benefits using your name.
7. Some ways to check if you’re a victim of Unemployment Insurance fraud
Even if you don’t notice any glaring signs that someone has filed for UI under your name, it’s worth knowing how to check if you’re a victim.
It’s helpful to request a credit report from the major credit checking bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). If you see any discrepancies and activities you’re unaware of, it’s a sign that someone has access to your details.
Pro tip: You may also call or email your state’s Department of Labor to ask if someone is receiving your unemployment benefits. If they confirm that this is the case, even if you didn’t file for UI, report the fraud to them right away.
8. Are you at risk of UI scams?
When it comes to unemployment fraud, some individuals are more susceptible than others. After all, hackers are getting more sophisticated, and data breaches are becoming more common.
Here are some factors that may put you at risk of UI scams:
You’ve been a victim of a data breach
You may be at risk if your information was part of a data leak, such as the 2017 Equifax data breach.
Hackers may have harvested your personal identifiable information (PII) and used it to apply for unemployment under your name. They may have also bought it from the dark web, so investing in ID theft protection with dark web monitoring may be wise.
You’ve paid someone to file UI claims for you
You're also in a dangerous position if you’ve paid an individual or company to file for unemployment benefits under your name. Filing for UI is always free; if anyone asks for a fee, that’s only the beginning of a scam.
Once you provide your details, like your Social Security number, to these scammers, they can file for unemployment under your name and steal your benefits.
How do you report a false unemployment claim?
When you find out that someone has claimed your unemployment benefits, here’s what you can do:
- Contact your State Department of Labor and inform them about the case. The Department of Labor list has phone numbers and websites you can visit, all of which you can use to report unemployment insurance fraud.
- Contact your employer. They’ll likely have access to various government agencies, and they can help you support your claim.
- You can also file a complaint at the National Center for Disaster Fraud or contact them at (866) 720-5721.
- Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency can then place a one-year fraud alert for you. Here, it will put all your credit cards on a security freeze. This will thwart fraud attempts like opening new credit lines, applying for loans and even getting new credit cards.
How can you protect yourself from unemployment fraud?
From all the sources we’ve read, we found that the best way to protect yourself from unemployment fraud is to beef up your online security measures by using a strong password.
This means using multiple characters, letters, and numbers to create a unique code. Never use passwords that directly link to your name, birth date, or address. It’s best to use a completely random one you can store in a password manager.
If you want a memorable password, instead of using your birth date, you can perhaps use the title of your favorite book and replace letters with numbers or symbols.
For example: TuesdayswithMorrie = 2uesd@ysw1thM0rRi3
Additionally, you can avoid connecting to public WiFi, as hackers can easily hack into your devices.
Ben Grindlow, founder of digital privacy security website ProXpn, also offers these expert insights:
“One thing you can do to protect yourself from fraudsters is to familiarize yourself with their common methods or schemes. Keeping yourself informed and on top of the news will make it easier for you to spot any suspicious activity.
And what do you do when this happens? Once you discover that someone filed unemployment using your name, one of the first things you should do is report the fraud immediately. Doing so will allow you to limit the delays in your claim, if any, and the damages it can cause you.”
Everything travels quickly online, especially your data. Hackers are getting smarter and are now exploiting government benefits, such as Unemployment Insurance.
It’s important to remain vigilant because you never know when a scammer can strike. They take over not just your financial accounts but also government benefits you may need. That said, make sure to keep this guide in mind.