LIVINGSTON PARISH, La. (WAFB) - Many people have been laid off due to COVID-19 and are relying on unemployment benefits to get by, but not everyone has been able to collect.
When Kristin Courville was laid off in July she immediately filed for unemployment to help pay her bills. However, when she tried to set up her account through the Louisiana Workforce Commission, she couldn’t because there was already an account made.
“When I went to log in it told me that I already had an existing account, which I thought was weird because I’ve never tried to get unemployment before,” Courville said.
Once Courville was able to get her password reset and was able to log in. She found out that someone had filed a fraudulent claim and had been drawing unemployment checks for the last four weeks. She also could not file a new claim, meaning someone else was collecting unemployment checks she had to go without.
“A criminal had stolen my identity and I wasn’t able to then make claims so I was kind of paying for this persons crime,” she said.
Courville filed a report with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and was eventually able to get the issue resolved.
Louisiana Workforce Commission Secretary Ava Dejoie said cases like Courville’s are on the rise.
“Obviously in Louisiana where we’ve paid out over 600 dollars in benefits since March, when there’s that amount of money, there is fraud,” Dejoie said. “We’re doing everything we can to identity, to ask for additional information.”
Sec. Dejoie said the agency cross checks personal information to try and stop fraudulent claims, but if someone has their identity stolen, it can be tough to stop.
For Courville, she did not know her identity being stolen though, so she had no way of stopping it.
“There was nothing on my credit report. I have a credit monitoring service and nothing was reported on there. These criminals are smart. They’re using it to just go through the government agency. It doesn’t report to my credit,” Courville said.
Dejoie said a case like this further highlights the need to protect your personal information.
Here are some tips provided by the Federal Trade Commission:
- Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
- Don’t share personal information (birthdate, SSN, or bank account number) just because someone asks for it.
- Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Use the security features on your mobile phone.
- Update sharing and firewall settings when you’re on a public wi-fi network. Use a virtual private network (VPN), if you use public wifi.
- Review your credit card and bank account statements. Compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired credit cards. This can prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
- Review your credit reports once a year. Be certain that they don’t include accounts that you have not opened. You can order it for free from Annualcreditreport.com.
- Freeze your credit files with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecommunications and Utilities Exchange for free. Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.
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