Police departments are usually the ones warning the public about scams, but in the case of the recent wave of fraudsters applying for Washington State unemployment benefits, police employees themselves are among the victims.
Like many local police agencies, the Lynnwood Police Department has received numerous reports of residents who were victims of what the State Employment Security Department is calling “imposter fraud.” Victims’ personal information was stolen from other sources — one example provided is the massive external data breach at Equifax — and are now using it to apply for unemployment benefits amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
One of those personally impacted was Lynnwood Police Commander Sean Doty, who said Monday that someone submitted a claim for unemployment benefits with his information.
Doty recommends taking the following steps if you have been impacted by the scam
- Create a paper trial for future reference. Keep a file folder or journal documenting the incident and your reports, including case numbers. This file should also include notes, copies of emails and other documentation. Such a file will help you address identity issues or find inaccuracies on your credit history later.
- Notify your employer’s human resources department. Doty advises to do this as soon as possible so your employer can deny the claim.
- Contact the State Employment Security Department (ESD) by calling 800-246-9763, or use their online form. Doty says he used the online form but it took several attempts before it finally went through — so keep trying until you receive a confirmation number. “Patience is key (hopefully others experience a smoother reporting process),” he said. Here’s the information you’ll need so they can verify your identity:
- The last four digits of your Social Security number
- Your date of birth
- Your address
- Your current phone number
- Information on how you learned a a claim was filed on your behalf
- File a nonemergency police report with the Lynnwood Police Department.
- Notify the three major credit bureaus: Experian (1-888-397-3742), TransUnion (1-800-680-7289) and Equifax (1-888-766-0008). Tell them a fraudulent unemployment claim was made using your identity, and provide the case number from your police report.
- Get free credit reports by visiting annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. You should check your credit activity at least once a year. Anyone who is a victim of identity theft can check it monthly if desired.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). File a short report with the FTC and give them the case number from your local police report. To help prevent criminals from creating an account using your identity, you should also consider setting up an IRS account with your Social Security number. You can also lock your Social Security number to guard against IRS tax fraud.