In some cases, people have received debit cards from another state in the mail, but with their own names on them. In these cases, it is possible that something went wrong with the criminal’s plan, Ms. Velasquez said. Perhaps the card should be delivered to an address where an accomplice could retrieve it.
Despite the ongoing legal offensive, thieves continue to develop new ways to outsmart people and government unemployment systems. “You’re not giving up,” said Ms. Velasquez.
In August, the Federal Trade Commission warned of a new phishing program in which victims receive text messages, allegedly from their state employment agency, asking them to click a link to review or update information by providing personal information how to specify social security numbers.
The texts targeted people in several states, including Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Illinois, the commission said. The information can be used to steal unemployment benefits or for other identity-based frauds like opening bank or credit card accounts.
Here are some questions and answers about identity theft and jobless fraud:
What should I do if I receive an unsolicited debit card or service letter?
The Federal Trade Commission recommends reporting the fraud by contacting the state agency that sent the letter or card. Then follow the agency’s instructions. You will likely be directed to file a police report with your local authority and mail a copy to the state employment agency. The FTC also suggests informing your employer. Keep copies of the documents submitted and any responses you receive.
The Federal Department of Labor has published a list of government employment agencies so you can be sure that you are calling or emailing a legitimate office. The Department also suggests filing a complaint with the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud.
Can freezing my credit files help?
The FTC recommends freezing your balance if you’ve been the victim of unemployment identity fraud. It’s a good idea to do this even if you weren’t a victim, Ms. Velasquez said. Given the large number of data breaches in recent years, she said, it is likely that at least some of your personal information has been compromised. “People should really understand that their IDs are out there,” she said.