SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – April 7, 2020 – As COVID-19 triggers furloughs and layoffs, millions of Americans are not only finding themselves out of work, but increasingly the target of cybercriminals. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a consumer scam alert warning about ‘stimulus scammers’ conning consumers into paying fees to receive a check from the federal stimulus package. CyberScout, a global leader in identity theft resolution, data defense and employee benefits services, is alerting the public to an increased risk of scams about federal economic relief plans and offers steps consumers can take if they become a victim.
“The fear of COVID-19 and financial uncertainty in the economy is making all Americans especially vulnerable to scams,” said Jennifer Leuer, Chief Executive Officer, CyberScout. “Now, we are starting to hear from consumers who are filing for unemployment and learning there is already a fraudulent unemployment claim on record for them. It’s unconscionable. We want people to know there is a way through this situation and they don’t need to panic.”
For those who think their personal information may have been compromised by hackers, scammers or identity thieves, CyberScout recommends focusing on the following: Review, Report and Recover.
- Visit ChexSystems https://www.chexsystems.com/web/chexsystems/consumerdebit/page/home/ to obtain a Consumer Disclosure Report. An unfamiliar account can indicate if a debit (checking) account has been opened by a criminal using your personally identifiable information to facilitate fraudulent payment of government benefits. It is also wise to place a freeze or a one-year fraud alert with ChexSystems to prevent any accounts from being opened in the future.
- Review your insurance policies or contact your insurance agent. Many homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies include cybercrime coverage. In addition to covering damages, this type of insurance often provides access to an expert to help remediate the issue.
- Check credit reports and banking statements to look for any unusual transactions or new account openings. Guaranteed by federal law, free credit reports are available annually at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
- After experiencing any type of fraud or identity theft, contact the three credit reporting companies – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – to add a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit file.
- After alerting the credit reporting companies, file a report with the FTC online at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-theft-and-data-security/filing-complaint. If you choose to file a report with the police department, you will need a copy of the FTC report.
- In cases of unemployment-related identity theft, report the issue to your state’s unemployment or labor department through their website. It typically takes approximately 30 days for a fraudulent unemployment claim to get resolved, but due to the current number of unemployment claims, processing time has nearly doubled. You can find details here: https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/unemployment-benefits.aspx.
- After filing an FTC report, close fraudulent accounts and address fraudulent charges and transactions. Contact each business with whom an unauthorized account or transaction has occurred and explain the situation. Remember to keep all correspondence as backup.
- For some types of fraud, the FTC can provide a recovery plan when a claim is filed.
- Refer to the experts. Information, tips and resources are available at CyberScout https://cyberscout.com/en-us/resources and through the Identity Theft Resource Center at https://www.idtheftcenter.org
“We were under daily assault by cybercriminals before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the need to protect our financial security has increased exponentially over the last 30 days,” said Adam Levin, Founder of CyberScout. “With millions of people newly unemployed, unprecedented numbers of people are applying for benefits and looking for ways to survive in the short term. Unfortunately, hackers are going to exploit this situation. CyberScout is uniquely prepared to protect and serve consumers through our insurance and employer partners during the coming storm.”
For more information about cyber safety, please visit https://cyberscout.com/en-us/resources.
For more information about filing a report with the FTC, please visit www.identitytheft.gov/Assistant#.