West Virginians are receiving unemployment benefit cards they never requested

West Virginians may be receiving unemployment “debit cards” they never wanted and never asked to get.

They’re part of a scam.

Scott Adkins

“Folks are filing claims, bad actors, in the names of West Virginians,” said Scott Adkins, acting commissioner of Workforce West Virginia, on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

He suggested there are 50,000 to 60,000 fraudulent claims in the state system.

Fortunately, the debit cards don’t have money on them until the recipient takes another step to register with the state.

This has been happening across the country.

Scammers are using information from earlier data breaches such as the Equifax data breach of 2017 to file for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

“They’re filing unemployment claims all across the country using information from that data breach,” Adkins said.

The FBI warned about this last month.

“U.S. citizens from several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online,” the FBI warned.

The FBI added, “Criminal actors will use third parties or persuade individuals who are victims of other scams or frauds to transfer fraudulent funds to accounts controlled by criminals.”

Adkins said the fraud attempts are a hassle for the victims and for the state.

“When someone files a fraudulent claim and that money comes to you, there’s no money on that card,” Adkins said. “There’s nothing on that card until Workforce staff handle that claim individually.”

If people get a card they didn’t request, Adkins said they should report to reportunemploymentfraud@wv.gov to get a stop on the claim.

“It also helps us clear our system out, so that’ll be one less claim that we have to handle individually,” Adkins said. “So we’ll clear that out when folks send us that information.”

Because the card has no money on it when it’s sent, Adkins said there’s not likely any benefit to schemers or direct risk to the recipient.

“When you get the card and you didn’t file for it, you’ll trash it or you’ll call us. Either way, the bad actor’s not going to get the funds,” he said.

But he said receiving a card is a tip that an identity breach has occurred.

“They have your Social Security number,” he said.

The FBI suggested these steps for potential victims to take:

  • Be wary of telephone calls and text messages, letters, websites, or emails that require you to provide your personal information or other sensitive information, especially birth dates and Social Security numbers. Be cautious with attachments and embedded links within email, especially from an unknown email sender.
  • Make yourself aware of methods fraudsters are using to obtain PII and how to combat them by following security tips issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, including:
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a regular basis and request your credit report at least once a year to look for any fraudulent activity. If you believe you are a victim, review your credit report more frequently.
  • Immediately report unauthorized transactions to your financial institution or credit card provider.
  • If you suspect you are a victim, immediately contact the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit records. Additionally, notify the Internal Revenue Service by filing an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) through irs.gov or identitytheft.gov.


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