INDIANAPOLIS — A woman says she received an unemployment insurance card in the mail, yet never applied for one.
“At first I was like I don’t even bank with KeyBank,” said Dawn Mulder. “I didn’t even know what was happening. Then I happened to notice there was a little something that said 'workforce' in the corner, and I was like wait a minute is this unemployment?!”
Indeed, it was an unemployment insurance benefit card. The problem is she never applied for unemployment. “I mean, should I be worried? Does someone have all of my information?” she asked.
She immediately called KeyBank and asked them to put a stop on the card. Then she called the state, to which she was referred to go online and report the fraud on the state’s website. But still two months later, she has yet to hear back.
She's wondering how, as an instructional assistant at a school, she was approved for unemployment without applying. “Doesn’t my employer have to verify? I’m like, what employer verified I wasn’t working?” she asked.
Especially, she said, when people like her sister-in-law have had to close their daycare business three times throughout the pandemic and actually applied for unemployment. “She’s been denied," said Mulder. "I haven’t even applied for it. And they’re handing out money. It just seems so confusing and sad for people who really need it.”
In last week’s press briefing, the Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne named this particular kind of fraud as one of many they’re seeing at the state. “We have fraudsters purchasing someone’s stolen information on the dark web and then filing for unemployment insurance benefits,” he said.
He says they’re trying to combat this by evolving their tools and technology to verify claimants’ identity.
“When claimants are asked to verify their identity through one of our new identity tools, only 60% actually took the steps to do so," said Payne. "That indicates that the 40% who never verified their identity can’t because they may be fraudsters.”
Even of that 60% who attempted to verify their identity, 23% were identified as fraudulent. Commissioner Payne said, right now, 71% of current claims have fraud indicators, requiring investigation. “This means about 3 out of every 4 PUA claims require some sort of additional processing,” he said, urging people, if you see something suspicious, let them know.
The state issued this statement:
"We would like to stress that it is critical that individuals take steps to protect their personal information. We oftentimes see individuals sharing personal information via various social media sites. We have many tools in place to detect, prevent and collect fraudulent payments, including enhanced identity verification. What we are seeing now is that if a fraudster files a claim, the enhanced identity verification prevents any payments from going out. We also continue to coordinate with other states, law enforcement and banking institutions to stay in front of any fraudulent activity and to take any needed measures once it occurs. Please see the steps that a person should take if they believe they are the victim of identity theft: https://www.in.gov/dwd/files/Identity-Theft-5-Things-To-Do.pdf [in.gov]