The Washington State Attorney General has issued recent warnings on scammers looking to capitalize on COVID-19 instability.
Unfortunately here at the City a number of staff have been identified as victims of unemployment fraud. Please pay special attention to your mail and email at work and at home. Often these targeted scams will send something that is easy to overlook. Other agencies have reported employees receiving what look like legitimate ESD benefit claimant letters in the mail. If you receive a fraudulent claim, do not respond or provide any personal information. Instead follow the recommended steps below.
If someone has made an unemployment claim in your name following these five Steps to Protect Your Financial Identity & Credit History
Step One – Notify your employer
Step Two – Contact WA State ESD
Either you or your employer needs to contact ESD.
If YOU are reporting the a fraudulent claim made in your name, email ESDGPInternalFraud@ESD.WA.GOV to report it.
Information to include in your email:
- Your full name
- Last 4 numbers of your Social Security number (never put your full SSN in an email)
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Brief description of how you found out an impostor-fraud claim was filed using your information
Please let ESD know: If an impostor-fraud claim was filed using your information, do you give us permission to deny and cancel it?
If your Employer is reporting the fraud on behalf of an employee:
Download the Benefit Fraud Employer Reporting Template
Enter the requested information for the affected employees
Email the completed template to ESDGPInternalFraud@ESD.WA.GOV
Step Three – The Three Major Credit Bureaus
Obtain your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228
b. Report to the credit bureaus that the fraudulent claim was made using your identity. You can have a fraud alert put on your identity or freeze your credit. A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.
c. Check your credit activity at least once a year. As a victim of identity-theft you have the right to check it monthly if you choose.
d. Credit Freeze – If you do not have upcoming large purchases, such as a home, you may want to freeze your credit for more protection. It is free and you can do it yourself. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
Step Four – FTC & IRS
a. File a short report with the FTC and consider contacting your local police department to file a non-emergency police report. Give the FTC the case number for your local police report https://www.identitytheft.gov/ (good info at http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft)
b. Consider setting up an IRS account at https://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account. If you create an account with your social-security number it will prevent criminals from creating an account using your identity.
c. Another option is to lock your social-security number at https://www.e-verify.gov/employees (The next wave of this cyber-attack may be IRS tax fraud.)
d. All of this reporting seems redundant, but we want to make sure you are recognized as a victim by the local, state, and federal government. Also, the more people who report it, the more support Law Enforcement agents will get to pursue the perpetrators.
Step Five – Keep Notes
Hang on to any notes, copies of emails, etc. This is the paper trail that you can reference if you face any identity issues or locate inaccuracies on your credit history sometime in the future.
Protecting Your Data and Identity in the Future
Below are some steps and resources that the cyber-crime detectives recommend for anyone wanting additional protections for themselves and their families.
Control Your Own Information
Services that lock credit information can help, though you must provide companies with your own personal data, potentially creating more risk.
There are many sites that will walk you through securing your own data. You can google “how to do opt-outs and credit freeze” or use some of the third-party resources below. These are not associated with the City, but they are trusted resources that other victims have used successfully.
https://Inteltechniques.com/links.html The workbook linked on the right side of the page will walk you through a credit freeze and removing your data from data brokers and “stalker sites”. The “Privacy Checklist” is a printable guide for securing devices, accounts, and personal data. You don’t need to buy anything on this page, we just want to make use of their free guides.
https://ssd.eff.org/en The Electronic Frontier Foundation has several guides for privacy and security.
Most attackers use data obtained from previous internet breaches of hotel chains, entertainment services, and other widely-used digital productivity tools. That is why it is important to never use the same password twice. Get a password manager and use Multi-factor authentication: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-password-managers/
Use Multi-Factor Authentication (a secondary security code) on your most important accounts: https://authy.com/guides/
Most importantly, be vigilant and watch out for phishing emails, phishing fraud calls, and even things like mail/package theft, which can lead to your identity being compromised. Be wary of free apps/offers, which could be mining your data.