During the COVID-19 pandemic, states across the country reported increases in unemployment fraud where victims’ identities were used to file false unemployment claims. The identity thieves received the benefit monies; the victims got the tax bills.
According to a U.S. Department of Labor memorandum, it’s estimated that $45.6 billion in unemployment benefits were paid between March 2020 and April 2022 as a result of fraudulent claims.
When your identity is stolen for unemployment benefits
If you have been notified by your employer or state employment office that a fraudulent unemployment claim has been filed in your name, take the following steps to protect your personal and financial information:
- Visit the Washington State Employment Security Department website and submit a fraud reporting form.
- Contact one of the three major credit bureaus and request a fraud alert be put on your credit report. That bureau will notify the other two bureaus on your behalf — be sure to follow up if you don't receive a confirmation that all have been notified. These alerts tell creditors to contact you before any new accounts are opened or existing ones are changed.
Equifax 800.525.6285 | Experian 888.397.3742 | TransUnion 800.680.7289
- Contact your financial institutions to take additional steps to secure your accounts.
How to proactively prevent fraud
If you have not been notified of any fraudulent activity but would like to be proactive in preventing future fraudulent claims, create an account with the Washington State Employment Security Department and verify your identity. This will ensure your Social Security number is tied to the username and password you’ve created and cannot be used by anyone else. Do not reuse a password from another account.
Other steps you can take to protect yourself