Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have been stealing personal information from individuals and then filing and claiming unemployment benefits in that individual’s name. Victims of these unemployment scams are often just now learning about this identity theft, as unemployment agencies are sending tax forms (1099-G) for income tax filing.
If you received a 1099-G tax form from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and did not apply for unemployment benefits in 2020, contact ODJFS immediately. Visit unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov/IdentityTheft for more information and to access their online portal.
If you have been a victim of identity theft (via unemployment benefits fraud or otherwise), there are many resources available to help protect your identity.
Review resources available with the Ohio Attorney General at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/IdentityTheft;
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov;
Request your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com;
Place a free one-year fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies either online at www.consumer.ftc.gov or at their toll-free numbers. The bureau you contact must inform the other two bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742), or TransUnion (800-680-7289).
UNEMPLOYMENT “MULE” SCAMS
Scammers file unemployment claims in someone else’s name and have those benefits directly deposited to another individual’s banking account. The unsuspecting third-party (the account holders) believe they are helping “friends” collect their benefits. Scammers may ask for these funds to be withdrawn and then sent to them as gift cards or money orders—and sometimes offer account holders to keep a small portion of the proceeds for their “help.” The funds are discovered to have been fraudulently credited to the account holders, who are then out the money when it is deducted from their accounts.
Whether the “mule” is complicit in the fraud or deceived by the scammer, “mules” are laundering funds for organized COVID-19-related crime. Acting as a money mule is illegal and punishable, even if you are not aware you are committing a crime.