by Chris Hill, SVP & CFO | Bankers’ Bank of the West

While unemployment trends are improving, the current environment has created a new vector for fraudsters.

Numerous state governments and law enforcement agencies have been getting reports from citizens who received cards used to facilitate unemployment payments and accompanying paperwork even though they had never applied for unemployment.

At a time of severe strain on states’ budgets, this scheme is targeting the pandemic assistance programs that provide unemployment assistance for self-employed workers and those unemployed as a result of COVID-19.

Law enforcement encourages anyone affected to report what happened for the purpose of creating a record of it. Authorities note that those targeted could be victims of identity theft.

People who receive a card they did not expect or request are advised to immediately contact the card issuer to deactivate the card. Additional recommended action steps include initiating a fraud alert with the consumer credit bureaus and reporting the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has received new claims requesting back pay from dates as old as February, forcing it to modify the process for obtaining backdated benefits. That shift, which requires applicants to speak directly to a department employee, led to a 40% drop in new claims. However, the CDLE estimates that more than 75% of claims since July 18 were fraudulent. The agency believes the new procedure has effectively blocked over $750 million in improper unemployment insurance payments.

Being no strangers to data privacy and protecting customers’ personal identifying information, bankers can proactively support their customers and communities by providing education, raising awareness, and sharing resources to help fight fraud. Following is a list of hyperlinks to appropriate contacts across Bankers’ Bank of the West’s market area: