When identity thieves steal your personal information, they don’t just use it for their own financial gain. Purposefully or not, they can also make you look like a criminal.
Consider unemployment insurance fraud
Most people are aware that unemployment insurance cannot be drawn while you are working. In some instances, however, people will attempt to defraud the system by continuing to collect unemployment checks while holding a job, without reporting the earnings. Though such cases typically make up the bulk of the fraud that state labor departments must deal with, there is another category of fraud that is lesser known, but growing in prevalence. In certain instances, individuals will file claims for unemployment benefits using false or stolen information.
And when states realize what is being done, their first instinct is to go after the person whose name is on the claims form. Often, this person is simply an innocent bystander who now appears to have been defrauding the government.
It can happen to you
Recently, Watchdog.org collected a series of stories from people who had been accused of unemployment fraud, when in reality they were actually victims of identity theft.
Many of these people were in serious danger of losing their jobs and facing criminal charges. For instance, one woman told the news source about how state unemployment officials contacted her employer with accusations that she had been fraudulently receiving benefits. She was nearly let go, only holding on to her job after successfully proving her innocence. Another man told the news source that his boss threatened to turn him over to the police until he could demonstrate that he was not collecting benefits.
Unfortunately for victims, the manner by which thieves apply for unemployment using information that does not belong to them is fairly simple. In some cases, a name and a Social Security Number can be all it takes – and those can be stolen in a variety of ways.
And it’s not just individuals committing these crimes. As noted by a recent article on Security Intelligence, some organized crime groups are beginning to steal data in large amounts and use it for fraud efforts. There’s no telling how many victims may be caught within this increasingly wide net.
Be proactive when protecting yourself
Obviously, we all want to protect ourselves from identity theft and false charges of unemployment fraud. And it is true that there are some immediate steps we can take to secure our identities.
We can be more mindful of how we dispose of important documents containing sensitive information. We can strengthen the passwords connected to our online accounts, and use additional security measures like two-step verification to reduce the risk of them being compromised.
Ultimately, however, there is only so much we can do. Identity theft happens, even to those who have tried to prepare for it. Sometimes, the retailer you shop at is hit by a massive data breach. Other times, the IRS itself loses information to thieves.
An identity theft protection service like Identity Guard can help by monitoring your credit files, Social Security Number and public records. Our service will alert you to activity that could be indicative of fraud. You’ll be able to place freezes on your credit reports and contact the appropriate authorities to begin the process of clearing your name.