If you receive an unsolicited check for unemployment insurance, do not cash it.
Nigerian scammers have let loose a barrage of attacks on Americans, with so many of us needing and seeking help due to unemployment. They steal your identity from third party sources and then apply for unemployment payments in your name, using direct deposit to route the money into accounts they control. Another aspect of their scam goes into effect when a paper check is sent instead of direct deposit.
The Secret Service has eyed a “well-organized” Nigerian fraud ring “exploiting” the COVID-19 crisis to commit large-scale fraud on state unemployment programs. An ongoing investigation has been launched to stop the fraudsters and recover the lost money. The Secret Service is one of the agencies involved in the investigation.
“Criminals will use stolen personally identifiable information to file fraudulent state unemployment claims,” according to a Secret Service spokesperson. “Crooks will then use social engineering techniques to recruit unsuspecting individuals to launder illicitly obtained funds in order to conceal the identity, source and destination.”
According to state and federal authorities, the perpetrators are targeting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which offers benefits to individuals who would not normally be eligible for unemployment, but have had their livelihoods impacted by the coronavirus.
There is evidence of unemployment fraud in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and Florida, a Secret Service memo said. The Secret Service estimates losses in the hundreds of millions. Banks at all levels — local, credit unions, and national banks — have all been targeted.
This fraud has been particularly prevalent in the State of Washington, but it is breaking out in many states struggling to keep up with the massive, ongoing, new unemployment filings.
As just a single example of many, here is a link to the State of Washington’s unemployment fraud web page:
I am seeing the usual warnings to keep a sharp eye on your credit report in the wake of this scam. Am not quite certain how this would be picked up on a credit report . . . but maybe. In any event, already have posted about obtaining frequent credit reports here:
There are so many Americans applying for unemployment insurance payments today, with many of the applications being made online. Apparently the fraudsters have also created phony “apply for unemployment insurance here” websites in order to steal unwary applicants’ personal data and direct the unemployment benefits payments to themselves.