| Special to The News-Press
With a record number of people out of work, unemployment offices are processing unusually high numbers of claims each month. Among these claims are fraudulent applications made by criminal actors that utilize the stolen identities of local residents to submit unemployment insurance claims online, and deposit or transfer benefits to themselves. The FBI reported that Florida had $43 million worth of identity fraud last year, and as of July 2020, the state was close to $34 million already. Some states temporarily suspended the processing of jobless claims and froze debit cards with unemployment benefits funds.
It’s essential for residents, including those who have not applied for unemployment benefits, to be aware of this spike in fraudulent activity.
Some may wonder how to determine if you have been a victim of identity theft. A few key signals include receiving communications regarding unemployment when you have not applied, unauthorized bank transactions related to unemployment benefits, and being charged fees involved with filing for unemployment.
This fraud often takes place because of previous data breaches, computer intrusions, or the ability to access personal information from social media platforms and public websites.
However, there are a few actions that can be taken to help protect against identity theft. It is recommended to sign up for private services that monitor suspicious activity under your name, keep private information off the internet as much as possible, not include personally identifiable information in emails or texts, such as social security numbers, and decline to accept deposits for others or transfer money into their account.
Identity theft presents itself in a number of ways. With a rise in unemployment fraud, it is important to regularly monitor your credit report, never share personal information with others, and review credit card and bank statements daily. If you identify any suspicious activity, immediately contact your bank, credit card company, and most importantly The Federal Trade Commission by going to their website, www.identitytheft.gov, or by calling 1-877-438-4338.
Kathy Robinson is the market retail leader for Centennial Bank in Southwest Florida. Centennial Bank is a customer-focused community bank with more than 165 current branches in Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, and New York. Centennial Bank, Member FDIC.