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FBI warns unemployment benefits fraud spiking; Friendswood man among victims

HOUSTON – The Federal Bureau of Investigation has seen a spike in pandemic-related unemployment claims filed using stolen personal information. A Friendswood man is among the victims.

Jason Holter received letters from the Texas Workforce Commission about an unemployment benefits claims he never filed.

“It outlined income for the past couple of years,” Holter said. “It said, ‘here’s what you’re eligible for per week.‘”

The TWC fraud department told Holter to file a police reporter, and he did with the Friendswood Police Department.

“Meantime, I sent an email to HR and just said hey, I just got this stuff in the mail and I assume someone is trying to file unemployment,” Holter said. “They sent me an email four or five days later and said, ‘Yes, in fact, somebody had tried to send in some benefit information for unemployment for me.‘”

“The criminals obtain the stolen identity using a variety of techniques, including the online purchase of stolen PII, previous data breaches, computer intrusions, cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams, email phishing scheme,” the FBI said in a press release this week.

The release also included the following information:

The FBI advises the public to be on the lookout for the following suspicious activities:

  • Receiving communications regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for unemployment benefits
  • Unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits
  • Any fees involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance
  • Unsolicited inquires related to unemployment benefits
  • Fictitious websites and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies

Tips on how to protect yourself:

  • Be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers. Be cautious with attachments and embedded links within email, especially from an unknown email sender.
  • Make yourself aware of methods fraudsters are using to obtain PII and how to combat them by following security tips issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including:
  • Avoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
  • Protecting Against Malicious Code
  • Preventing and Responding to Identity Theft
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis and request your credit report at least once a year to look for any fraudulent activity. If you believe you are a victim, review your credit report more frequently
  • Immediately report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider

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