AUSTIN (KXAN) — Millions of Texans lost their jobs and signed up for unemployment when the pandemic began, but now people are being targeted by scammers at an alarming rate.
“Someone had applied for unemployment benefits using my name and social security number,” said Hannah Schaeffer, who works for the Texas Public Employees Association and was employed when she received a troubling notification from the Texas Workforce Commission.
Schaeffer just one of the thousands of unsuspecting people blindsided by unemployment insurance fraud.
“It was a jolt, kind of scary you don’t ever expect something like this to happen to you,” Schaeffer said.
The TWC is warning people about the significant rise in fraudulent claims. In the last year, the number of claims skyrocketed.
“611,000 claims — that is a large increase compared to the 1,100 claims we saw in 2019,” James Bernsen with the TWC said.
Scammers use stolen personal information to file fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. They do this through phishing scams or breaching a company’s database.
“The employees are the victim, the employer is the victim and the taxpayers of Texas are the victim,” Bernsen said.
Monitoring your credit card activity and keeping up to date on the latest scams can help keep you safe.
“It is really important for folks to look at everything they do on the internet and every transaction they have and look at measures to protecting their identity,” Bernsen said.
TWC says they find the majority of the fraudulent claims, but there are still some that slip through the cracks.
“Once we verify that it’s fraud, neither the employee nor the employer is on the hook for any of that money,” Bernsen said.
TWC has a high-risk suspicious claim detection tool on the front end to review claims when they are filed. If a claim is deemed high-risk, the claimant must contact TWC’s Office of Investigations to be identified before the claim will proceed.
If you suspect unemployment insurance fraud, please access the Reporting Fraud webpage.