The Texas Workforce Commission is urging people to protect their identities online as many Texans have discovered fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed in their names.
While the TWC said its systems had not been hacked or breached, Texas – much like all other states – is dealing with a large number of fraudulent applications due to identity theft that takes place outside the system.
Identities are being stolen at unprecedented rates, and the TWC estimates that it paid about $577 million in fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic. To put this amount into perspective: A total of $44.7 billion has been paid out in unemployment benefits since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. As the problem isn’t limited to Texas, experts estimate that billions in health-crisis-related benefits have been stolen nationally.
Cases of medical, financial, and criminal ID theft have all been common throughout March 2020 since millions of people lost their jobs overnight. Breaches have been identified at hotels, health insurance companies, and even consumer credit reporting agencies.
The TWC is now on a mission to help educate people about what they need to do if they find out their unemployment claim was flagged for fraud. On Thursday, April 21, 2021, the TWC issued a statement about ID.me, the company it’s using to help the victims protect their identities and get their unemployment benefits as soon as possible.
Should you receive a letter stating that you’ve applied for unemployment benefits even though you haven’t done so yourself, it’ll be highly likely that you’ve become a victim of identity theft. In that case, you’re advised to report it on the TWC fraud portal immediately. Additionally, you’re advised to get in touch with your local police department, consult the Federal Trade Commission website to report the ID theft, and contact one of the three consumer credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) and ask for a free fraud alert to be placed on your credit report.