Unemployment Fraud and COVID-19: The Perfect Storm


No one ever thinks that identity theft can happen to them — especially over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did people realize that fraudsters never rest and that the COVID-19 pandemic created the perfect opportunity for stealing identities and wreaking havoc on people’s lives.

As businesses shut down due to the health emergency, unemployment applications increased and created the opportunity to steal identities and file false unemployment claims. Worried about health, childcare, and jobs, many people lost focus on the need to protect their personal data. The result is that victims’ personal identifiers made their way to data aggregator sites that serve as the platform for criminals who then use these sites to perpetrate crimes of identity theft. 

What data can be found on these sites?
Personal identifiers like birth dates, addresses, names of family members, income, and more are pieces of information that are easily attainable when consumers provide them to social media outlets, rewards programs, and commerce sites that request this type of information as part of their account set up process. Once a criminal has this information, they are able to obtain social security numbers and the employment information of employees, children, deceased relatives, and others.

What do these criminals do with this information?
Often this type of identity theft and fraud results in the fraudster filing for unemployment in many states using different names, with no verification of employer, monetary eligibility, or other identifying information required by the State. Once approved, the fraudster redirects the unemployment payments to alternate accounts and enjoys spending the ill-gotten gains.

What can I do to avoid this threat?
There are a number of preventative steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from identity theft:

  • Don’t give unnecessary information online or over the phone
  • Don’t post your COVID-19 vaccination card on social media
  • Do create a secure email address 

If you have been the victim of stolen identity or unemployment fraud, contact Dr. Kim Miller at kmiller@porziocs.com

Learn how to prevent and recover from online identity theft at porziocomplianceservices.com/services/open-source-intelligence-investigations/.