ROCKINGHAM — Police are investigating at least three recent cases of suspected identity theft within the city limits all reported on the same day.
In a report filed Dec. 13 with the Rockingham Police Department, the 38-year-old female victim alleges that someone tried to use her personal information to file for unemployment benefits.
Another case, filed by a 64-year-old woman, involves the suspect using the victim’s identity to apply for unspecified benefits.
In a third case, a 67-year-old female victim claims someone used her information to open a Chime account in her name.
“States have experienced a surge in fraudulent unemployment claims filed by organized crime rings using stolen identities,” according to an IRS web page updated Oct. 31. “Criminals are using these stolen identities to fraudulently collect benefits across multiple states.”
The IRS also referenced a recent warning from the Justice Department regarding fake benefits websites.
“To lure consumers to these fake websites, fraudsters send spam text messages and emails purporting to be from a (state workforce agency) and containing a link,” the IRS page states. “The fake websites are designed to trick consumers into thinking they are applying for unemployment benefits and disclosing personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. That information can then be used by fraudsters to commit identity theft.”
On Friday, N.C. Department of Commerce Division of Employment Security announced a recent increase in suspected impostor fraud in the unemployment benefits system
“Impostor fraud occurs when a person’s stolen identifying information is used to file a fraudulent unemployment claim,” a press release states. “The stolen personal information is often obtained through outside data breaches, phishing scams and schemes that were part of larger criminal efforts unrelated to unemployment. DES has not experienced a data breach.
In February, WCNC reported that $8.8 million in benefits had been paid out by DES to identity theft.
The previous month, federal prosecutors announced that an Indian Trail man had pleaded guilty to applying for more than $150,000 in unemployment benefits from multiple states after claiming “prior employment at Target, BestBuy, Lowe’s, and Hobby Lobby, and falsely claimed that he had been laid off from some of these companies because he had been diagnosed with COVID or due to lack of work because of the coronavirus, when he had never in fact been employed by those companies.”
DES offers the following tips for victims of unemployment impostor fraud:
- If you receive communications relating to an unemployment claim and you did not apply for benefits, you or your employer should report the suspected fraud to DES.
- If you receive a notice from DES to complete ID.me identity verification and did not file a claim for unemployment benefits, do not complete the ID.me process. Only legitimate claimants should complete the identity verification process for unemployment benefits.
- If you receive an overpayment notice related to a fraudulent claim, you are not liable for the overpayment.
- Employers should review all notices they receive from DES relating to unemployment benefit charges and employee separations and report any fraudulent claims.
- Report suspected unemployment fraud to DES using the online Fraud Report Form at des.nc.gov/fraud or by calling the Fraud Hotline at 984-465-9224.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, North Carolina ranks 26th in identity theft with more than 30,000 reports in 2020.