The U.S. Department of Labor issued a notification to the state unemployment agencies back in March 2020 warning that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to expect an increase in this type of activity. Other government agencies have also been involved in the investigation of unemployment fraud attributable to identity theft.
The U.S. Secret Service issued an alert in May 2020 reporting information was received that indicated a Nigerian fraud ring was exploiting the COVID-19 crisis and was committing large scale fraud against state unemployment insurance programs.
Although certain states were being targeted initially, the US DOL indicated it was extremely likely every state was vulnerable and would be targeted. The FBI is also involved in the investigation of this activity and issued a press release in July 2020 confirming there has been a spike in fraudulent unemployment claims being filed related to the COVID-19 pandemic that involved the use of stolen personal information. The report indicated stolen identities are being obtained using a variety of techniques that include the online purchase of stolen PII, information available as a result of previous data breaches, computer intrusions, and from public websites and social media accounts, among other methods.