The Better Business Bureau is warning of stolen identities through unsolicited 1099-G forms consumers are receiving through the mail.

Dick Eppstein, BBB president for Northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan, has reported fielding calls from puzzled consumers who have received the 1099-G forms, supposedly from Job and Family Services offices. Eppstein said thieves are using the forms to take advantage of increased unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic by collecting benefits in the names of unsuspecting victims.

He said the thieves typically get the personal information they need for fake unemployment claims by purchasing it online. In some cases, they compile lists of real people, then pay $2 in crytocurrency on the “dark ‘Net” to match the names with Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Eppstein said that’s all the information they needs to file a phony unemployment claim.

Other times, scammers get personal information for fake claims through phishing messages that the consumers fall victim to. The consumers may have received an email offering a reward like a gift card or free product or may have been scared by an email that claimed to be from the government saying they had failed to pay their taxes or missed jury duty. They innocently provide personal information which the scammers used for their fake unemployment claims.

According to BBB Scam Tracker, common ways victims become aware of the fraud include:

• Receiving a 1099-G form from the government telling them they received thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.

• Receiving notification from an unemployment office confirming the victim’s date of their last day of work – even though they are still employed or have been retired for years.

• A letter from the state unemployment office or department of labor informing the victim that their unemployment benefits were denied – even though they made no such claim.

• Notifying the victim’s employer that the victim filed for unemployment benefits, though they still work for the company.

Eppstein said consumers should report receiving a letter, email or other notification about an unemployment claim they didn’t make. He also advised consumers to check their credit reports for freee at AnnualCreditReport.com for unauthorized inquiries and accounts; consider freezing their credit so reports can’t be seen without proof of identity; and set up transaction alerts with their bank or credit union.

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