Rise in Identity Theft and Unemployment Fraud


The Information Security Office would like to make Case Western Reserve University community members aware of the signs of identity theft and unemployment fraud. Identity theft, the use of another person’s sensitive information, including name, social security number, bank card numbers, etc, to conduct fraudulent transactions, continues to affect millions of Americans each year, costing billions of dollars in losses.

Data breaches from large corporations, notably the Equifax breach in 2017 and the Marriott Hotel breach in 2018, have resulted in the exposure of personal information of millions of Americans. Data breaches can also occur if you’ve lost a wallet with personal information in it, used a card at a card skimming machine by mistake, clicked on a phishing email, or given personal information to scammers over the phone.

While Case Western Reserve University has not been the victim of a data breach, our faculty, staff, and students, as members of the general population, are at risk due to data breaches of other institutions. It is important to recognize the signs of identity theft early on and understand what to do if you are a victim.

General Information

Always get your information from trusted sources

Before discussing identity theft, it is important to remind ourselves to maintain internet safety practices. As identity theft and fraud can be very emotionally difficult issues to handle, it is important to only go to official websites when learning about this information to minimize any further loss, exposure, and confusion.

The Federal Trade Commission, FTC, is the official U.S. government agency responsible for helping consumers recover from identity theft and data breach loss. The FTC has several official .gov websites to help people who have been impacted by identity theft, including IdentityTheft.gov and Consumer.FTC.gov (both discussed below).

The FTC has recently discovered that scammers have created a fake FTC website to further harm identity theft victims by charging them money for a fake identity theft report. This website calls itself the “US Trading Commission”, using official FTC logos and addresses, and promises “instant cash” for a “personal data protection fund”. It asks for personal bank data and once given, proceeds to steal your money from your bank and use your personal information for additional identity theft. If you encounter this or other scam websites, you can report fraudulent websites to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

Always be vigilant online. During the process of recovering from a data breach or identity theft, always make sure to use only official .gov websites. The FTC does not ask for money, and will never ask for your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number for a refund. For official information on refunds from the FTC, visit their website.

Recognize the signs of Identity Theft

The FTC’s website, IdentityTheft.gov, provides full information on recognizing the signs of Identity Theft. These include:

  • Receiving a notice of unemployment benefits in your name when you did not request it
  • Seeing withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • Not receiving your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.

I received a notice that my information was released in a data breach. Now what?

Visit IdentityTheft.gov to see guidance on how to prevent and track fraudulent transactions for each information type stolen, including:

  • Social Security Numbers
  • Debit or credit card numbers
  • Bank Account numbers
  • Passwords
  • Driver’s license
  • Your child’s personal information

Additionally, be aware of Medical Identity Theft and Tax Identity Theft.

I’ve seen signs that my identity was used fraudulently. What do I do now?

If you have evidence that your identity was used fraudulently, report it to the FTC immediately. The FTC will create an Identity Theft report and Recovery plan, to provide next steps on how to recover from theft. Additionally, this report will also prove to businesses that you have evidence of identity theft, and the report guarantees certain rights.

Unemployment Fraud

I recently received an unemployment claim even though I’m still employed. How did this happen?

Due to the sudden influx of job losses and furloughs created by the coronavirus pandemic, city and state unemployment offices have worked to release unemployment benefits as swiftly as possible. Scammers with access to stolen information have used this pandemic to file unemployment claims fraudulently. As mentioned above, there are a number of ways scammers may have accessed or stolen your information, including data breaches, phishing emails, social engineering tactics, and other tactics.

What do I do if I have received an unemployment claim notice?

Use the FTC’s reporting form to file a fraudulent unemployment claims report. They will guide you through each step in the process and what steps to take next. You can also report unemployment fraud to the state in which the claim was made.

I haven’t had a fraudulent unemployment claim. What do I do to prevent it?

For those who have worked in Ohio within the past 18 months, it is recommended that you create an account with Ohio Jobs and Family Services. By creating an account you are securing your information so that you are the only owner of that account. Only one account per person can be created, so it is recommended that you create your account even if you do not need it. If no account is created, it is possible for a scammer with your stolen information to create an account in your name for you, and it will be very difficult to gain control of that account and cease the fraudulent claims.

If you have worked outside of Ohio within the past 18 months, you may want to create accounts for those states in which you have worked as well. Note, we are not suggesting that you create an account for all 50 states, just for the ones in which you have worked within the past 18 months.

I have so many questions…

The FTC and FBI have a wealth of information to help you protect your accounts and even the accounts of loved ones. Follow these links for more information on these topics: