(WSYR-TV) — Stefanie Heath was shocked to find a letter from the New York State Department of Labor when she opened her mail a few weeks ago.
The letter was, Heath said, “Stating that I had applied for benefits from x-date to x-date and that I was approved for them and they were under the pandemic unemployment assistance. I know I did not because I had been working full time all through the pandemic.”
Heath explained the letter had personal information, including her address and social security number. She reached out to friends on social media to see if this happened to any of them.
“It turns out,” she said, “That dozens of people I know have experienced this.”
They helped her come up with a plan. The first thing she did was file an online report on the State’s Department of Labor Fraud Claim Page.
“Secondly, what I did was reported this to my human resources department at my job, so that they knew if anything came through to them, that it was fraudulent,” Health said.
Another thing she did is also what Rick Reagan, NewsChannel 9’s Financial Advisor suggests, which is freezing your credit.
“If you’ve got your credit frozen in all three credit bureaus,” Reagan said, “Nobody can take a loan out in your name. So you’ve got really good protection right there.”
It’s something he knows all too well.
“I actually was one of the victims of somebody trying to take unemployment in my name and I immediately checked my credit reports and found out there was nothing else they did,” Reagan said.
He credits that to the credit freeze. While you may not able to dodge every single scam, acting quickly can help prevent further identity theft.
The NYS Department of Labor says during this pandemic, it has stopped $6.4 billion in fraud. It recommends reporting identity theft to the FTC, filing a report with the local police department if you wish, and reporting a misused social security number.
You can report fraud to the NYS Department of Labor on its site: https://labor.ny.gov/agencyinfo/report-fraud.shtm
You can also reach out by phone by calling: 1-888-598-2077