Identity Theft Update: The FBI has an active, nationwide investigation into Unemployment-related Identity Theft. In addition to trying to report fraud to the unemployment office and banks issuing benefits cards, they ask you to report directly to the FBI — and promise that your tip, whether by phone or online — will be read by TWO agents.
The Identity Theft crisis that first impacted IDES — the Illinois Unemployment system — is now becoming more widespread! It is imperative that you lock down your credit report now — at all three bureaus! (Contact information below).
BUT WHEN YOU FREEZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT, BE SURE TO GET A COPY OF YOUR CREDIT REPORT AND READ IT!!
You are looking for “inquiries” into your credit. Many people have reported a “soft inquiry” from IDES. Typically they then receive one of those fraudulent debit cards. Read my previous column on IDES and Identity Theft and make sure you do NOT ACTIVATE any debit card.
BUT, you may also see an inquiry from a bank or credit card company that you do not recognize. If you see a bank inquiry, contact that bank to make sure someone did not open an account in your name. Bank accounts do NOT appear on your credit report, but an inquiry will be a tipoff.
AND, if you see an inquiry from the SBA (Small Business Administration) contact them immediately. I have heard from several people that small business loans were taken out in their name — and they had no idea! Contact the SBA inspector’s office at (800) 767-0385.
The whole idea of freezing your credit report is so that no one can use your identity to open NEW ACCOUNTS in your name. But you still must be vigilant about your existing bank and card accounts to make sure no one is using them for fraudulent purposes.
Here’s a reminder of how to contact each of the three credit bureaus. There should be NO COST to freeze your account and to get your credit report online, immediately. Keep your secure PIN so that you can easily lift the freeze if you want to allow a company to check your credit, perhaps in a job search, insurance purchase, or mortgage refinancing.
You can get a free copy of your report from each of the three bureaus by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. Or call the numbers below:
Regularly check your bank balances and credit card balances online. Report any unexpected deposits, as they may be a prelude money being wired OUT of your account.
Keep Track of Your Attempts to Report Fraud
Next year, you may receive a 1099 from the government asking you to pay income taxes on money you never received! You’ll need to prove you tried to report any attempts at fraud. So every time you file an online fraud complaint, take a screen shot of the filing page. (You can do that by pushing the button at the top of your keyboard marked “Prt Scr”. ) Then send yourself an email and “paste” the “screen shot” in the body of the email. You do that by clicking in the body of the email and if you don’t see the word “paste” come up, just press CONTROL +V at the same time, and the picture of the screen shot will appear in the body o9f the email!
Save those emails that you send to yourself in a special folder. That will let the IRS know you tried to report fraud when it happened. And that will be useful if you receive a 1099 form next January asking you to pay taxes on the “unemployment benefits” your allegedly received – but, of course, didn’t!