More than 1 million claims for unemployment benefits have been filed with the state of Colorado since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last March. Now the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is seeing a sharp spike in fraudulent claims filed by identity thieves on behalf of people who are still working.
Colorado State University is not immune to the scam. Human Resources is seeing a rise in fraudulent unemployment benefits claims filed using the identities of CSU employees, and is helping faculty and staff who suspect they have been targeted report the scam.
Reports of unemployment insurance fraud have been surging nationally. State officials say that the number of Coloradans being targeted by scammers in an effort to collect unemployment benefits under their names is anticipated to be nearing 800,000. Robyn Fergus, CSU’s chief human resources officer, said her team began seeing a significant rise in fraudulent claims in late December, with about 250 cases reported in the first week of the new year. She estimated that CSU has seen about 500 fraudulent claims since Dec. 1.
The CDLE notifies CSU through a third-party vendor when it receives a claim for unemployment benefits for a University employee. Fergus said the current spike consists of claims filed on behalf of CSU employees who are currently employed.
How the scam works
Employees may receive a letter from the CDLE containing a personal identification number for a U.S. Bank ReliaCard, the debit card used by those who are on unemployment, or may receive the card itself. Other victims may not receive anything in the mail, but will be alerted as the state and CSU identify fraudulent claims. The scam may involve people impersonating state officials and contacting employees about the debit card and the associated PIN. The scammers may try to convince an employee to send them that information, and that’s when they are able to complete the filing of the unemployment benefits in the employee’s name.
The CDLE is monitoring the situation and working closely with the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration and human resources departments to notify victims that their identities have been compromised.
In addition, CSU has created a new website that provides guidance to employees who believe they have been a victim of a fraudulent claim. That site features guidelines for employees who find out that a fraudulent unemployment claim has been filed in their name.
How to report it
Here are the steps that employees should take if they believe someone is using their identity to collect unemployment benefits:
• If you received a U.S. Bank ReliaCard but did not file a claim, fill out the U.S. Bank Form and contact U.S. Bank immediately at 1-855-282-6161. Inform them that a fraudulent unemployment claim was filed on your behalf and ask them to deactivate the card.
• Report the fraud to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment or the appropriate agency for another state.
• Contact the three consumer credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on your name and Social Security Number: Equifax (888-766-0008), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion (800-680-7289
• File a police report with your local law enforcement agency
• Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at identitytheft.gov
• Keep all records and documentation of fraud, including notes and emails
• Never give out any personally identifiable information over the phone, including Social Security Numbers, account passwords and PINs