Privacy Perils: Pandemic Identity Theft

July 17, 2020
Firm Publication

The past few months have been hard on many people and businesses. Some of us may even know individuals who lost their job due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, there are always those who prey on the misfortunate.

Earlier this month the FBI issued a press release warning of criminal actors using stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online. The FBI stated:

[C]riminals 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 schemes, physical theft of data from individuals or third parties, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods.

Particularly troubling is that most sufferers of unemployment insurance identity theft have no idea they have been targeted until they try to “file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits, receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency, receive an IRS Form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance, or get notified by their employer that a claim has been filed while [they were] still employed.”

Caution your friends and family members to review carefully any communications concerning unemployment matters if they have not applied for benefits. Likewise, everyone should be suspicious of any form of communication or website that seeks confidential or personal information, including dates of birth and Social Security numbers. And as with other attempted scams, review your bank and credit card statements closely and timely for any unauthorized or unknown fees, and examine your credit reports (spaced out during the year) for any dubious entries.

Finally, the FBI suggests that if you believe you have been targeted for such a scam you file a report to the Internet Crime Complaint Center and consult identitytheft.gov for help in reporting and recovering from identity theft.

Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob Brewer, Tony McFarland, Elizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.