NEW YORK - The New York State Department of Labor has created a public service announcement about COVID-related fraud because stealing unemployment benefits has become so rampant.
"These scammers stole the identities of hard-working New Yorkers and tried to unlawfully collect unemployment insurance benefits," Linda Lacewell, the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, says in the PSA video.
Thieves are stealing the identities of people who have a job and have not filed for unemployment benefits, according to the labor commissioner. The state Department of Labor is now sending letters to fraud victims alerting them someone tried to claim unemployment benefits using their name.
"There are all kinds of databases where you can buy information about peoples' date of birth social security numbers," said Aleksandr Yampolskiy, the CEO of SecurityScorecard and an expert on identity theft.
He said there are things you can do to protect yourself.
"Be smart about what you share on social media — people tend to overshare," Yampolskiy said. "All this information that they would not tell to a stranger."
He also said that passwords are critical, so make sure you periodically change your passwords and don't reuse the same password over several accounts.
The problem is so widespread that it has hit every state in the country. The U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania even caught prison inmates illegally directing COVID-19 relief into their bank accounts.
Identity theft experts are urging all of us to be careful with our personal information because criminals are trying to take advantage of this crisis.
Get breaking news alerts in the FOX 5 NY News app. Download for FREE!
Statement by the Labor Commissioner
"Unemployment fraud is — sadly — a scourge that we have to fight every day, but it is particularly despicable that criminals would use a global pandemic as cover to attempt to defraud our system. These benefits have been a lifeline for millions of New Yorkers over the last year, and every day our Office of Special Investigations is working to protect our system from fraud and abuse. Our team is using technology, including artificial intelligence and other sophisticated techniques, to identify fraud as quickly as possible and stop these criminals in their tracks. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at all levels to bring these thieves to justice." —Commissioner Roberta Reardon