By Summer Stephan
The figure is astounding – more than $11 billion in unemployment funds bilked from the state’s Employment Development Department. Greedy cheaters and prisoners lied about who they were to receive benefits as claims soared amid the pandemic. At the same time, we saw deserving recipients of EDD struggle to get their much-needed payments. My office is working hard to bring accountability to prisoners who stole money through fraud. In the meantime, we want to provide you with information to keep you safe from becoming a victim of fraud.
Unemployment payments are usually deposited directly into bank accounts – the same is true for imposters fraudulently claiming benefits. But sometimes payments get sent to the real person’s account, which makes bad actors double down on their fraud.
What to lookout for if you receive unsolicited unemployment benefits:
• The scammer may call, text, or email to try to get you to send some or all the money to them, possibly through a gift card.
• They may even go so far as to pretend to be from the state unemployment agency saying the money was sent by mistake.
Here’s what to do if you find yourself in this situation:
• If you receive a notice of an unemployment claim you did not file, report the fraud immediately the California Employment Development Department.
• There is no fee to file a claim, so if you are asked to pay, this is a scam.
• Be aware of fake websites. Scammers are creating websites to trick individuals into releasing personal information. Make sure that the website you are using is a legitimate government website. Third-party websites and outside agencies cannot apply for unemployment benefits for you.
• You will never be asked to provide sensitive information, such as your social security number or bank account information through email when applying for unemployment benefits. Any email or robocall call asking you to provide such information, regardless of how official it may appear, is fraudulent.
• If you get an unsolicited email, never click on any links.
• Beware of robocalls asking for personal information to complete your unemployment application. Most government agencies will only call you if you contacted them and asked to be called back.
Now that you know how to spot unemployment scams, here are some tips to avoid them:
• Use only official websites and phone numbers of your corresponding unemployment agency.
• Monitor your credit reports to see if any unemployment claims are opened without your permission or if any other fraud occurs.
• Keep your computer security up to date.
If you get an unemployment tax form (Form 1099-G) but never applied or received unemployment benefits, you may be the victim of identity theft. If you think that someone else filed a claim under your name, address, or Social Security number, contact California EDD to report the fraud. Visit ASK EDD and select the Form 1099G category or call 1-866-401-2849. You can also report fraudulent activity to IdentityTheft.gov. This website can also help you freeze your credit if necessary.
As your District Attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s Office and the public. I hope these consumer and public safety tips have been helpful.