Since the confirmed start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, record numbers of unemployment claims have been filed. With the passing of various COVID relief bills that include increased federal benefits, states across the nation have seen scammers using illegally obtained data to file fraudulent unemployment insurance claims.
Maryland, in particular, has been inundated by these claims. Citizens are claiming they’ve been sent collection letters for benefits they never received. While employers are receiving unemployment verification requests for people they’ve never even met.
In this article, we’ll be looking at some signs that swindlers have been using your information. You’ll learn how to protect yourself from fraudsters.
1.) You’re getting collection letters or phone calls for unemployment benefits, but the collector is asking for payment in strange ways
For most people, a collection phone call or letter is a big deal. But, it can a collection seriously derail your financial plans by being added to your credit report. It may also drop your score or cause your wages to be garnished to pay the collection.
Maryland citizens have reported that they’ll receive a collection notice for unemployment benefits they never filed for or received. But, that the “State of Maryland” wants to be repaid using prepaid gift cards. While these scams typically target the elderly, anyone can be a victim.
Keep in mind; State collectors will never ask you for payment in any way other than through official channels. These methods include paying in person at the courthouse or on an encrypted official government website.
2.) Were you approached by your employer or someone you’ve never worked for to discuss an unemployment claim you didn’t file?
It’s never a comfortable conversation to have with your employer or even someone you’ve never worked for when they come to you to discuss something potentially fraudulent. However, there have been numerous reports of Maryland employers receiving verification letters. These can come from either currently employed long-term employees or people who have never worked for their company.
Scammers are hoping that employers will approve the unemployment claim without carefully researching the employee in question. Once the employer approves the claim, that’s one less hurdle they’ll need to jump to collect unemployment benefits fraudulently.
To avoid this, all employers need to be extra vigilant about checking with their HR department or benefits coordinator before signing any unemployment paperwork. This is true even if you think you’re up to date on any situation.
3.) You received a 1099-G tax form but didn’t ever file for unemployment benefits
At the end of January 2021, did you receive a 1099-G federal tax form from the government stating that you have federal unemployment benefits that you need to add to your tax filing, but you never received unemployment payments? This could be a sign that fraudsters could get ahold of your personal information to file a claim. They may have been receiving federal and state unemployment insurance money on your behalf.
Of all of these scenarios, this is the most serious. Scammers could potentially have your personal information, such as your social security number. They could use it for much more nefarious things than filing unemployment insurance scams.
You’ll need to get copies of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com to check for discrepancies.
How you can protect yourself
Suppose you believe that someone has used your personal information to file an unemployment insurance claim fraudulently. In that case, Maryland residents are encouraged to contact the Division of Unemployment Insurance’s Benefit Payment Control Unit. To do this, complete a “Request for Investigation of Unemployment Insurance Fraud” form and e-mail it to email@example.com.
Suppose you’re an employer in the State of Maryland, and you believe a fraudulent claim has been charged to your account. In that case, you should immediately file a benefit charge protest through your BEACON employer portal. The Maryland Department of Labor will investigate your protest and will remove charges that are deemed fraudulent.
As always, the number one thing you can do to protect your information is to never share it with anyone other than people or entities with whom you initiate transactions. If someone you don’t know or who you did not contact first asks for any of your personal information, end the conversation immediately.
At JStevens Accounting, we take great care to safeguard your personal and business information. If you find out that you’ve been a victim of an unemployment scam, contact us for help to remedy the situation.