During the pandemic, the U.S. witnessed a scam that was considered the biggest scandal in California’s history. Identity theft is not uncommon; many people lose a fortune because of it. It is extremely common because the process is relatively easy. Instead of biometric facial ID, security heavily relies on numbers and digits, which are fair to hack.
When Covid-19 hit, a lot of people lost their jobs. Businesses were closing down or laying people off, leading to a sharp hike in the unemployment rate. The government disbursed a tremendous amount for unemployment benefits. As people saw it as a sign of relief, scammers saw an opportunity.
Unemployment benefit scam in California
The U.S. government has allotted $872 billion in unemployment benefits because of the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor report says that at least 10% of people may have been paid wrongly, primarily due to fraud.
It was a grave issue as the scammers not only stole the money but also deprived deserving citizens of those benefits. The scammer initially lured the target by emailing genuine citizens to apply for help with a fake website. After they filled out their information on the phishing website, they were redirected to the original website to avoid suspicion.
Unknown con artists are running these scams. They get a person’s personal identifying information (PII) and then use it to apply for unemployment through the state agency. Criminals use various methods to get this PII, such as:
- Phishing websites via email;
- The purchase of stolen PII;
- The use of stolen PII that was used in previous data breaches;
- Impersonation scams that use cold calls;
- Physical theft of data (like dumpster diving).
Most of the time, unemployment benefits claims do not appear on credit reports. So, fraud alerts won’t always let the person know that their PII was stolen and used to apply for unemployment.
People who have applied for unemployment aren’t getting notices as they need an address in the system, or fraudsters gave a different address during the application process.
Sometimes, the scammers take the notice postcard out of the person’s mailbox. So, a fraudster may keep getting benefits for weeks under the person’s stolen identity before the fraudster is caught.
States needed help to keep up with the number of claims, and website servers crashed. After finding tens of thousands of possibly fake requests last year, Washington state had to call the National Guard to help process them. The FBI warned that stolen identities could be used and that the people whose information was used might only find out once they try to get unemployment benefits or receive tax forms showing the money they were supposed to have received.
Using digital ID verification to stop fraud
The system of letting people file unemployment claims using information that’s easy to find doesn’t work since there’s no way to know if the person filing the claim is who they say they are. Thus, the best way to stop unemployment fraud is to use biometrics to check people’s identities.
Digital IDs, like biometric facial IDs, will help authorities confirm the candidate’s identity before giving them unemployment benefits. As IDs do not have numbers or digits that criminals can steal, it will stop identity theft.
Safeguard PII with biometric facial ID
Government agencies can better respond to the current fraud environment by adopting advanced digital identity verification. M2SYS have provided the best solution to identity management issues for governments and companies.
The company understands the gaps in the current system. It implements a foolproof system that will make it harder for fraudsters to steal legitimate users’ information while making it simpler and safer for those who need benefits to submit claims and get secure access to their accounts.