JONESBORO — Identity fraud for the purpose of collecting unemployment money continues to plague the country.
Since the start of the year, the Jonesboro Police Department has received about 136 reports of people filing for unemployment money under the victims’ names, according to Sally Smith, the JPD public information specialist.
“Our detectives are not working these cases. We are taking the reports so individuals can turn them into Workforce,” Smith said. “They are the ones investigating the fraudulent claims.”
On Tuesday, there were seven police reports on identity theft to receive unemployment. Among them were a male, 27; a female, 67; a female, 65; a male, 30; and a male, 47.
The Craighead County Sheriff’s Office has had 18 cases, said Kim Fowler, an assistant at the Criminal Investigation Division.
“Individuals have reported 3,125 fraudulent claims related to identity theft since the beginning of the year,” said Zoe Calkins, communications director for the Division of Workforce Services in the Arkansas Department of Commerce.
In Jonesboro, cases run the gamut from a 21-year-old pharmacy worker to an 87-year-old woman who filed a claim that someone filed for unemployment benefits under her husband’s name and that he was disabled and retired.
A 72-year-old Jonesboro woman told police that someone filed for unemployment using her name in Indiana and that she received fraudulent emails from California.
A 33-year-old woman in Jonesboro told police her information was used to file for benefits in Texas.
Another Jonesboro woman was contacted by Medicaid about her losing her benefits because she was collecting unemployment, which she wasn’t. She contacted DWS, which said they were issuing checks to someone using her name. She also discovered several vehicles were purchased by someone using her name.
It’s not just regular people getting victimized. Even Gov. Asa Hutchison was the victim of scammers in 2020.
The Arkansas DWS website says many victims of identity theft related to unemployment insurance claims do not know they have been targeted until they try to file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency, receive an IRS Form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance, or get notified by their employer that a claim has been filed while the victim is still employed.
DWS said criminals obtain information by using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen personally identifiable information, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods.
DWS says anyone who suspects someone is using their identity to get unemployment benefit should file a report with the local law enforcement agency and contact DWS at [email protected] arkansas.gov. Or call 501-682-1058.
The FBI advises the public to be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:
- Receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for unemployment benefits.
- Unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits.
- Any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
- Unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits.
- Fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies.