The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has received reports of a large-scale scam involving fraudulent unemployment benefits claims.


“Criminals not yet identified are filing claims for benefits using the name and personal information of individuals who are not unemployed,” according to the July 29 news release.


Victims are generally alerted of the fraud when their employer receives notice from the unemployment office that one of its employees has filed for unemployment benefits. At this point, benefits have usually been paid to an account controlled by the criminal.


“Investigations are imminent, as this fraud is affecting many, both locally and nationally. This fraud also delays the delivery of benefits to residents with legitimate claims and costs states like Arkansas,” according to the report.


The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office issued steps people can take to help their business respond quickly to any phony claims and assist employees whose personal information has been misused:


BUSINESSES SHOULD ALERT THEIR WORKFORCE — Tell employees about the scam. Ask them to report fraudulent benefits claims to the company’s Human Resources (HR) department as soon as they learn about them. Direct the HR team to flag any notice they get from the state about a claim supposedly filed by a current employee. Immediately notify the employee about any suspicious claim that the business receives.


REPORT THE FRAUD — It is important to remain vigilant and immediately report any suspicious activity related to unemployment claims. Businesses or individuals should report scams.


“If you receive a letter or debit card in the mail for unemployment benefits and you did not file for unemployment, or if you suspect someone has fraudulently filed for benefits using your name or any of your information, you need to report this to ADWS (Arkansas Division of Workforce Services) immediately,” according to the release.


WAYS TO REPORT FRAUD TO ADWS — Send an email to ADWS.InternalAudit@arkansas.gov. Call 501-682-1058 to speak with the ADWS Fraud Investigation Unit. If the line is busy, leave a message. Visit the ADWS website and fill out the secure fraud reporting form. ADWS will protect the caller’s identity. All tips received are investigated regardless of how much information is provided. However, the more details provided, the more the person will aid in the investigation.


After submitting the fraud reporting form, ADWS’ Fraud Investigation Unit will take appropriate action, including freezing the account associated with the report.


“If any payments were made, they will not be recognized as income to you at the end of the calendar year. Additionally, the fraudulent claim will not impact your ability to collect unemployment should you need to in the future and no charges will be assessed to your employer,” according to the release.


FILE A POLICE REPORT — File a police report with the local police department. Be sure to get a copy of the report and provide it to ADWS by sending it via email to ADWS.InternalAudit@arkansas.gov or presenting it at a local Arkansas Workforce Center.


If possible, report the fraud online. An online report will save time and be easier for the agency to process.


“Give your employee a copy of any documentation of your report to the state, including any confirmation or case number you receive. Let the employee know if the state requires that the employee also report the fraud,” according to the release.


HOW TO SAFEGUARD YOUR INFORMATION


If people believe their identity has been stolen and a fraudulent unemployment claim has been filed on their behalf, here are some steps to take:


Change passwords on email, banking, and other personal accounts.


Make a list of credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions where you do business. Tell them you are a victim of identity theft and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account.


Get a copy of your credit report and dispute any fraudulent transactions. You can request credit reports online from the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) or by calling (877) 322-8228.


Place a credit freeze with each of the 3 major credit reporting agencies. Call each of the credit reporting agencies at these phone numbers or visit their websites to freeze your credit. Equifax: 800-349-9960 or freeze your credit online Experian: 888-397-3742 or freeze your credit online TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or freeze your credit online


Place a fraud alert on your credit file. You can do this by contacting just 1 of the credit agencies to add an alert with all 3 agencies.


Take notes about all conversations and keep copies of all records.


Visit the Arkansas Attorney General’s website to learn more about how to protect your credit.


The Arkansas Attorney General’s office has information about reporting identity theft and protecting yourself.


The Federal Trade Commission has a step-by-step guide on how to report identity theft and create a recovery plan.


If you believe someone has filed unemployment insurance in your name, you need to report it immediately. Learn more here at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/06/scammer-getting-unemployment-benefits-your-name.