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DOJ Warns Of Fraud Claims, Identity Theft

Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Montana Commissioner of Labor & Industry Sarah Swanson today warned Montana workers and employers of elevated levels of fraudulent unemployment insurance (UI) scams. State UI systems across the United States are being targeted at unusually high levels by scam artists and criminals, leading to the filing of thousands of fraudulent UI claims. The filing of a fraudulent claim in an innocent worker’s name may indicate that worker is the victim of identity theft.

“Unemployment systems around the nation were targeted by fraudsters at unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Montana was no exception. Since then, UI systems have remained a prime target for scam artists, and recently we’ve seen a significant uptick in fraudulent activity,” said Swanson. “We are committed to identifying and preventing these scammers from receiving benefits. We ask for workers’ and employers’ patience and cooperation as we work to protect taxpayer funds from fraud.”

Scam artists frequently use stolen Social Security numbers, obtained from the Dark Web or other illegal sources, to create fake accounts to file false UI claims in the name of workers. Every claim undergoes a rigorous security screening, but in some cases employers may receive notification of the fraudulent filing before the identity verification is complete. Employers should know that even if they receive a fact-finding letter on a fraudulent claim, they should complete and return the fact-finding letter promptly to allow the department to ensure the claim is properly identified as fraud.

Montana UI asks employers to closely monitor their UI eServices for Employers account and promptly respond to any fact-finding requests on claims, even if the claimant is likely a victim of fraud. Quickly and accurately responding to fact-finding questions helps Montana UI eliminate fraudulent claims while ensuring legitimate claimants can receive their benefits in a timely manner.

“Employers should remain vigilant and be sure to respond to fact-finding questions in their eServices account to help us prevent scammers from receiving benefits,” Swanson said.

“As we continue to see an uptick in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims, I encourage Montanans — especially those who suspect they’ve been a victim of identity theft — to keep a close eye on their credit,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “A mistake on your credit report is a sign of likely identity theft.”

The Montana Office of Consumer Protection offers the following tips to protect personal information from fraudsters: Freeze your credit files with the three major credit bureaus so no one can access them without your permission. Never give bank or credit card information over the phone unless you initiated the call and know the business to be reputable.

Never respond to e-mail or pop-up messages asking you to confirm or verify account information, even if it looks official. Instead, call the customer service number listed on the company’s billing statement to check an account.

Remove extra information from your checks. Information like your Social Security number and date of birth should be guarded. If a merchant requires them, consider paying with cash or with credit card, or doing business elsewhere.

Shred or destroy any documents that contain personal identifying information before you dispose of them. Always shred prescriptions, receipts, bank deposit slips, pay stubs, expired credit cards, insurance policies and credit card applications.

Opt out of pre-screened credit card offers by calling (888) 5-OPTOUT (567-8688). This will not prevent you from getting a loan or credit card. Review your bank and credit card statements as soon as you get them.

Order a copy of your credit report once a year and check it carefully for fraudulent accounts. You are entitled to a free copy once every 12 months.

Read and understand privacy and security policies before providing any personal information on Internet sites. Shop online only if the site is secure.

Place passwords on your credit card, bank and phone accounts and avoid using easily available information such as your mother’s maiden name.

Secure personal information in your home.

Montanans can visit dojmt. gov/consumer/identity-theft/ for more tips to protect themselves from identity theft and steps to recover from identity theft.

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