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ID theft crime surges during pandemic

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Posted at 11:12 AM, Aug 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 12:17:16-04

HELENA — According to new data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), identity theft has risen to the number one scam during the pandemic.

The increase has been attributed to a surge in unemployment filing fraud

Con artists have been filing fraudulent unemployment claims using consumer identities.

In the second quarter alone, 349,641 ID Theft reports were filed across the United States. Of that, 77,684 reports were specific to government documents or benefits fraud.

Better Business Bureau Montana Marketplace Manager Hannah Stiff says hundreds of Montanans have been victims of similar crimes.

“We know that for Q3, 217 people reported that they were victims of this unemployment fraud,” Stiff said. “We know that it was filed on their behalf erroneously, and that number will continue to climb. We also know we don’t have the full picture yet and these reports are continuing to roll in.”

Individuals that have not personally filed for unemployment benefits but receive a letter from the government or their employer about filing for unemployment benefits should freeze their accounts and monitor their credit.

“If someone has filed for unemployment on your behalf, they’ve learned a lot of your personal information,” said Stiff. “You want to make sure no one can open new credit cards in your name.”

In addition to notifying their bank,unemployment benefits fraud victims should contact their employer and file a claim with the State’s Unemployment Insurance Division.

The FTC can also help create a personal recovery plan for victims of identity theft. People can begin the process on IdentityTheft.gov.

AnnualCreditReport.com is a trusted credit monitoring company that will provide a free credit check once a week to help victims look for irregularities in their credit.