Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Keeping Your Identity Safe From Unemployment Scammers

As a Senior Center Director, and now in my late 50's, I find myself constantly on the lookout for trends that benefit the senior community.  Sadly, I have been following a destructive trend in the past week that has me on high alert.  When I recieved one phone call from a senior, I thought it was a fluke.  When the fourth call came in, it became a disheartening pattern.

As if the world couldn't get more more confusing, it has recently come to my attention that a financial plague" has struck individuals all over the country.  I am talking about the rash of unemployment claims being made in the names of folks who have not requested benefits.  It's frightening to receive a notice in the mail asking if you have found employment or need to renew your benefits when you never initiated the process nor have you been receiving benefits.  Or worse yet, when you are retired and have not worked for a number of years.  They have your social security number, place of previous or current employment and rate of pay.  What is going on?

 It is of little consolation, I know, but if this has happened to you in recent months, you are not alone. It happened to my family.  According to the Federal Trade Commission, "In a large-scale scam erupting in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, imposters are filing claims for unemployment benefits, using the names and personal information of people who have not filed claims. People learn about the fraud when they get a notice from their state unemployment benefits office or their employer about their supposed application for benefits.  If this happens to you, it means someone is misusing your personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth. Act fast." (

Here are the steps suggested to help protect your finances and your credit: 

  1. Report the fraud to your employer. Keep a record of who you spoke with and when. I cannot stress this enough.  Keep a log of everything you do in response to this situation and keep a copy of everything you recieve.  I suggest keeping a log of all phone calls and following up your phone calls with an email whenever possible.  
  2. Report the fraud to your state unemployment benefits agency.  To reach the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, an email is the best way to communicate.  They are understandably overwhelmed and need time to get to you.  The email address is  If you would like to try your luck at calling, the phone number is 401-243-9100.
  3. Report the incident to the Rhode Island State Police at  When you filled out the very short and simple online form and click "submit" you will be given a message saying a police report has been filed in your name with an incident report attached to it.  Be sure to print this page or print the screen and save it to your files.
  4. Go to to report the fraud to the FTC and get help with the next important recovery steps. These include placing a free, one-year fraud alert on your credit, getting your free credit reports, and closing any fraudulent accounts opened in your name. also will help you add a free extended fraud alert or credit freeze to your credit report. These make it more difficult for an identity thief to open new accounts in your name.
  5. Review your credit reports often. For the next year, you can check your reports every week for free through This can help you spot any new fraud quickly.
  6. Check on your banking information often.  The faster you catch something, the quicker you will see relief.  
  7. Beware of Money Mule Scams.The unemployment payments usually are deposited to accounts the imposters control. But sometimes payments get sent to the real person’s account, instead. If this happens to you, the imposters may call, text, or email to try to get you to send some or all of the money to them. They may pretend to be your state unemployment agency and say the money was sent by mistake.  Participating in one could cause you more difficulties.
  8. Act immediately.  If you get benefits you never applied for, report it to your state unemployment agency and ask for instructions. Don’t respond to any calls, emails, or text messages telling you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Your state agency will never tell you to repay money that way. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
There is much about this process that could make your head spin.  Begin by taking a deep breath and remember that you are your own best advocate.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  I can assure you are not alone.  At the very least, I am sitting where you are sitting.  The above steps will help you take your control back.  These scammers are targeting everyone and anyone, dead or alive.  

As I am going through this process myself, I cannot stress enough how valuable the tools offered by are.  They will build a recovery plan for you that spells out step-by-step what you should do to protect yourself.   

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