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By Mary M. Krakow and Edgar R. Ocampo

Question

As an employer, should I be concerned about identify theft in connection with unemployment benefits?

Answer

Yes, absolutely.

Several employers have notified us that they received written notice from their state unemployment agency of unemployment applications for one or more of their employees who, the employer knew, continued to work full- or part-time and were neither furloughed nor laid off.  When the employers checked with their employees to learn why they would have applied for unemployment benefits, the employees confirmed that they had not applied, leading to the conclusion that the applications were fraudulent and the product of identity theft.

Employees applying for unemployment benefits must submit both their date of birth and their social security number.  Therefore, upon learning of a fraudulent unemployment claim using an employee’s name, both the employer and employee should respond quickly to correct and limit the potential damage.

  1. Employers promptly should notify the state agency of the fraudulent application and inform the agency they believe the application is the product of identity theft.
  2. Employers also should check their agency account on an ongoing basis to detect any other suspicious unemployment applications that may require follow-up.
  3. Employers should advise employees to notify the agency immediately that they never applied for unemployment benefits. Thus, any application using their identity is fraudulent.
  4. Employees should visit identitytheft.gov for protective measures to follow, such as implementing a “freeze” on their credit accounts, obtaining a free credit report and/or closing any fraudulent accounts. The Federal Trade Commission provides a helpful blog post on the topic, dated June 3, 2020.

Takeaway

Employers and employees must be alert for possible identify theft in connection with applications for unemployment compensation benefits. Upon learning of such fraud, the employer and the employee individually should respond quickly to correct and prevent further damage.

If you have questions regarding unemployment identity theft or other COVID-19 related topics, contact your Fredrikson & Byron Employment & Labor attorney or visit our Question of the Day page.


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