In some cases, people have received debit cards in the mail from a different state, but with their own names on it. In those cases, it’s possible something went awry with the criminal’s scheme, Ms. Velasquez said. The card may have been intended to be delivered to an address where an accomplice could retrieve it.
Despite the continuing legal offensive, thieves continue to devise new ways to trick people and state unemployment systems. “They’re not giving up,” Ms. Velasquez said.
In August, the Federal Trade Commission warned of a new phishing scheme in which victims receive text messages, purportedly from their state work force agency, asking them to click on a link to verify or update information by providing personal information like Social Security numbers.
The texts have targeted people in multiple states, including Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Illinois, the commission said. The information can be used to steal jobless benefits or used in other identity-based fraud, like opening bank or credit card accounts.
Here are some questions and answers about identity theft and unemployment fraud:
What should I do if I receive an unsolicited debit card or benefits letter?
The Federal Trade Commission recommends reporting the fraud by contacting the state agency that sent the letter or card. Then, follow the agency’s instructions. You’ll probably be directed to file a police report with your local department and submit a copy to the state work force agency. The F.T.C. also suggests informing your employer. Keep copies of the documents you submit and any responses you receive.
The federal Labor Department has published a list of state work force agencies, so you can be confident you are calling or emailing a legitimate office. The department also suggests filing a complaint with the National Center for Disaster Fraud at the Justice Department.
Can freezing my credit files help?
The F.T.C. recommends freezing your credit if you are the victim of unemployment identity fraud. It’s a good idea to do that even if you haven’t been a victim, Ms. Velasquez said. Given the large number of data breaches in recent years, she said, it’s likely that at least part of your personal information has been compromised. “People really should understand that their identity credentials are out there,” she said.