I’ve been COVID-19 compromised!
Someone stole my identity and applied for unemployment insurance on my behalf.
How did they get my information? Most likely, as part of the Equifax data breach several years ago.
If you haven’t installed a password manager or invested in creating strong passwords on all your accounts, the time is now!
How did I discover the identity theft?
I received an email from my Human Resources department (HR) advising me they received a fraudulent claim in my name for unemployment insurance benefits from the Washington Unemployment Security Department. My employer flagged this claim as bogus since I’m still working my normal schedule and collecting a paycheck.
In response to COVID-19 and the CARES act, the volume of fraudulent unemployment claims submitted to the Washington State Employment Security Department is estimated at over 21,000. This scam is so pervasive, the state sequestered employees for two days to deal exclusively with the volume of fake claims!
To date, Washington state has recovered $300 million paid to criminals using stolen personal information to file fraudulent unemployment benefit claims amid the COVID-19 crisis. It’s unknown at this time just how much money was paid out to a West African fraud ring on a national level.
How did the scammers do it?
To file for unemployment benefits, the scammers started an online claim using my:
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- Last 18-months of employment history
I felt violated, uncomfortable, and a little bit helpless, knowing my information is out in the wild. Therefore, I began the necessary steps to report and mitigate the damage resultant of the breach.
Eight steps to report identity theft:
This list is not exhaustive, and you may have additional steps to take, based on the type of fraud or identity theft you experience.
- https://identitytheft.gov/, which is managed by the Federal Trade Commission.
- You can further report suspected employment-related fraud to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS); information is available at their website: https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/employment-related-identity-theft.
- Another option is to lock your Social Security number at https://www.e-verify.gov/employees.
- If you don’t have upcoming large purchases, such as a home, you can freeze your credit for additional protection. It’s free, and you can do it yourself. Find more information about credit freezes at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
- Contact your local police department and file a non-emergency online report (when possible).
- Keep a file folder or journal with the information from this incident, including any case numbers. You may need this information to seal court records.
- Obtain your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
- Report to a credit bureau that a fraudulent claim was made using your identity and provide them with the case number from your police report. The bureau you contact is required to tell the other two credit bureaus.The bureau you contact is required to tell the other two credit bureaus.
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
Immediately request a fraud alert on your identity and freeze your credit. Doing either is free by law. A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name.
I hope you find these steps helpful to protect yourself from fraud or identity theft.
How to create a personal recovery plan
Learn more about developing a personal recovery plan by watching this video courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission.