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A large-scale scam involving phony unemployment benefits claims has been making headlines. Criminals, possibly based overseas, are filing claims for benefits, using the names and personal information of people who have not lost their jobs. The investigation is ongoing, but this much is known: the fraud is affecting tens of thousands of people, slowing the delivery of benefits to people in real need, and costing states hundreds of millions of dollars.

Most people learn they’re affected when they get a notice from their state unemployment benefits office or their employer about their supposed application for benefits. By then, however, the benefits usually have been paid to an account the criminals control.

Here are steps you can take to help your business respond quickly to any phony claims and assist employees whose personal information has been misused.

Alert your workforce. Tell your employees about the scam. Ask them to report fraudulent benefits claims to your Human Resources (HR) department as soon as they learn about them. Direct your HR team to flag any notice they get from the state about a claim supposedly filed by a current employee. Immediately notify the employee about any suspicious claim that your business receives.

Report the fraud. Check your state unemployment benefits agency’s website for reporting instructions. Depending on your state, the agency may want to get the fraud report from you, the employee, or both. This link can help you find the agency’s website.

  • If possible, report the fraud online. An online report will save you time and be easier for the agency to process.
  • Give your employee a copy of any documentation of your report to the state, including any confirmation or case number you receive. Let the employee know if the state requires that the employee also report the fraud.

Suggest employees visit IdentityTheft.gov. Criminals are using employees’ personal information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, to file the fraudulent claims. That means the employees’ information is exposed, putting them at risk for further harm.

  • At IdentityTheft.gov, employees can report the identity theft to the FTC and get step-by-step recovery help. IdentityTheft.gov will guide employees through placing a free, one-year fraud alert on their credit, getting their free credit reports, closing fraudulent accounts opened in their name, adding a free extended fraud alert or credit freeze to their credit report, and more. IdentityTheft.gov also will produce an FTC Identity Theft Report that identity theft victims can use to clear fraudulent information from their credit reports.

Check your cyber security. This fraud is a sharp reminder that sensitive personal information in the wrong hands can result in tremendous harm. Is it time to check your company’s cyber defenses? With so many people telecommuting, you may want to start by sharing tips to help your employees maintain security when working from home. For a deeper dive, consult Cybersecurity for Small Business, the FTC’s no-nonsense site for security-conscious business owners.

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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

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