From The Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — National, state and local agencies are warning the public about an increase in unemployment scams that have already impacted people right here in Trussville.
The Trussville Police Department has received numerous complaints from citizens about their information being used to file unemployment claims.
Scammers across the country are using personal information, such as social security numbers and bank information.
When the Trussville Police Department hears about a complaint, they make a report and send the investigation to the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL). ADOL has already sent out a warning to Alabamians, encouraging them to protect their information and report any possible fraud immediately.
Statewide, there has been an increased number of fraudulent claims related to unemployment insurance for over a year. The scammers use stolen identities or unauthorized access to an individual’s account. There have also been computer-generated claims for a single employer that exceed the number of employees, or claims on behalf of employees that never worked for the business.
“Unemployment insurance fraud is a national issue, and ADOL is working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor, the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, state and federal law enforcement agencies, and other states around the country to share information regarding known bad actors or methods of attack,” ADOL said in a press release.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is also on the case. Marshall said it is sometimes difficult for the scammers to be tracked down because the schemes are multi-faceted. The latest way for scammers to get information is a phishing scheme, where they get data through text messages that direct Alabamians to reported suspected unemployment benefits fraud on a fake Department of Labor website. The fake website ends in “.com” instead of “.gov.”
“Citizens should be advised that the Alabama Department of Labor will not communicate with you via text message,” Marshall said. “Any text message purporting to be from the Department of Labor is a phishing scam.”
ADOL said criminal organizations have attacked states’ unemployment systems throughout the nation, but ADOL has not been compromised and personal information has not been obtained.
“Fraudsters are obtaining identity information from many sources, such as from fraudulent phishing scams or recent large-scale private sector breaches that included private information from millions of individuals,” ADOL continued.
Social media has also been used in some of these scams.
Just last week, ADOL rolled out a new sign-on system designed to protect claimants’ identities. It allows users to log in using existing global provider sign-in information from Google, Apple and Microsoft. It also provides a dual-authentication log-in.
ADOL is encouraging claimants to protect their personal information, sign-in credentials and passwords. Establish PIN and passwords that are difficult for an outside person or computer to generate (for example, avoid using the last four digits of your social security number or date of birth).
Be on the lookout for any suspicious activity related to unemployment claims. Indicators of fraudulent activity can include:
- Mail from ADOL notifying you of a claim in your name when you have not filed an unemployment insurance claim.
- A 1099-G from ADOL stating you have income from unemployment insurance when you have not filed for or received unemployment insurance during the last calendar year.
- Text messages from ADOL asking you to verify your account. ADOL does not communicate via text message.
- Employers receiving claims notices on employees that do not exist, or never left the job.
- Anything you may suspect as fraudulent banking activity.
Individuals who believe they have been the victim of unemployment benefits fraud—including those who received a fraudulent form 1099-G—should file a report via the Alabama Department of Labor’s complaint portal found at Labor.Alabama.gov.
Additional information is available online from the United States Department of Labor here: http://www.dol.gov/fraud.