Q&A: Be alert to unemployment fraud during pandemic
Question: Our business has received a number of unemployment claims that seem odd, including some from employees who are still working. We know that unemployment claims are way up due to business slowdowns related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), but is there something that we should be doing about these unusual or unexpected claims beyond responding to our state employment office?
Answer: Unfortunately, with the state employment agencies overwhelmed, there has been an uptick in fraudulent claims filed by identity thieves. The Seattle Times has reported that a number of workers who are fully employed have received notices that claims have been filed in their names. At Vigilant, we’ve received calls from our members who’ve experienced similar fraudulent claims. If you’re receiving notices of unemployment claims that you don’t expect, contact the employee to find out if they actually filed the claim. If they didn’t, alert them to the possible fraud and encourage them to report it. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a list of websites and contact information to report unemployment insurance fraud in all 50 states. You may also want to encourage them to follow the advice on the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website. If you’d like to provide specific guidance to your employees, check out the Seattle Police department’s six action steps for victims of unemployment identity theft. You could customize those steps with the appropriate contacts for your state’s employment department as well as your local police department. As the employer, you should make your own report. You may run into long wait times on the phone, so look for an email address or web submission form if possible. You should also bring up the issue when you respond to the specific unemployment claim.