North Dakota’s cases of identity theft, especially by fraudulent unemployment claims, rose in 2020
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Identity theft cases in North Dakota sharply rose from 2019 to 2020, and according to the annual North Dakota crime report, the area that increased the most was fraudulent unemployment claims.
In 2020, an estimate of 383 million dollars were paid out for over one million initial and continued unemployment claims through North Dakota Job Search. But not all claims were legitimate.
“People started calling and saying we got a report that employee A is on unemployment and she’s sitting right there. And we started to see a lot of those kind of complaints where we knew that they were fraudulent,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.
It happens before you can stop it: someone steals an identity, reports they have been laid off, and the state signs off and pays out.
“Boom, you have been the victim of identity theft. And once your information is compromised, it is hard to claw that back. The best you can do is try to lock it down and be vigilant,” said North Dakota’s Consumer Protection Division’s director Parrell Grossman.
Employers and Job Service can alert individuals of claims filed in their name, which can happen to anyone.
“Many of us don’t realize how much information is already available on us out there, or that our identities have been compromised because nobody has really tried to access our account,” added Grossman.
The victim can suffer a multitude of issues like loan rejections or financial problems because of the identity theft.
“We’re continuing our efforts to work both with the state of north Dakota but with our federal counterparts to find and bring to justice those con artists,” added Stenehjem.
Experts say that if you think you have been a victim of identity theft, report the crime to the police and complete an identity theft report.
Grossman says to protect yourself, you should: shred financial documents before discarding them, avoid giving out personal information over the phone or email, make sure online shops are secure by looking for the lock in the top navigation bar, and following up with credit reporting agencies each year.
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