Florida Unemployment Scams Rising, State Attempts to Adjust

By  //  June 18, 2020

Early this month, the Federal Trade Commission announced that a large-scale unemployment scam had erupted amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Through this scam, imposters began filing for unemployment claims for individuals who had not yet filed, ultimately allowing them to collect the benefits. 

Millions of Americans are in tough financial situations. During a time of crisis, this could prove significantly damaging to the rightful individuals who need the assistance most.

Many victims aren’t learning about the fraud until they attempt to file for themselves or receive a notice about their unemployment benefits application. 

While there currently isn’t an exact number of fraudulent claims being made, there’s been a significant spike in cases opened to help fight them.

According to Scott Dahl, the inspector general for the U.S. Labor Department, 10% of unemployment insurance claims are improper during the best of times; during trying times, a rise in fraudulent cases is expected. Dahl estimates that $26 billion in benefits will be wasted, with the majority of that going to criminals who have manipulated the system. 

In late May this year, The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spokesperson announced that they’d notified 98 people who were part of a data breach that was associated with unemployment claims. At the time, they had received two million claims, only 1.6 million of which were verified. 

“Given the agency’s (DEO) track record with processing unemployment applications, I’m sure you will understand the great concern I have that all remedies have been quickly taken and that Floridians can be assured that their personal information is now secured and will be protected from future attacks,” State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando wrote in a letter. 

With so many state unemployment agencies overwhelmed by the sheer amount of claims, there is a bigger gap for human error. The sheer amount of applications means many are not getting the careful lookover that could help prevent identity theft. 

According to security experts, the vast majority of the fraud comes from criminals who are using stolen data to commit their crimes.

Today’s security statistics are harrowing. In 2018 alone, hackers stole half a billion personal records, creating a 126% jump in cases from the previous year.

Some information is taken from prior data breaches, while others are the direct result of new targeted attacks to the state. 

Because of this, it’s become more important than ever for individuals and businesses to take ownership of their data.

Businesses need to invest in high-end data loss prevention tools and training. Individuals should be analyzing their full credit reports on an annual basis and signing up for fraud alerts that can help prevent occurrences before they become serious. 

In December 2019, the unemployment rate reached a historic low of 3.1%—the lowest it had seen since March 2006. Many are hopeful that as the economy recovers, the state will get back to where it was just a few months ago. 

There are several steps that victims can take if they find themselves in a fraudulent situation. First and foremost, report the fraud to your employer and the state employment benefits agency, and hold onto any confirmation case numbers you receive.

You’ll also need to report the fraud to the FTC and follow the recommended recovery steps from there.