Houston Chronicle

TWC says Texans should be on the alert for identity theft

- By Rebecca Carballo becca.carballo@chron.com twitter.com/becca_carballo

The Texas Workforce Commission is asking Texans to protect their identities online as the agency contends with an influx of fraudulent unemployme­nt insurance claims.

Over the last year, the workforce commission has identified at least 373,000 claims as suspicious, primarily because of identity theft. The workforce commission’s computer systems have not been breached, officials said. But identity theft occurs widely, and that has led to large numbers of fraudulent applicatio­ns getting filed in Texas and other states.

Identities are being stolen in a variety of ways, including in breaches of health insurance companies, hotels and a consumer credit reporting agency, according to the TWC. The number of identity theft complaints in the United States doubled in 2020, the Insurance Informatio­n Institute reported.

The Dark Web, a cybercrime community, traffics in these stolen identities, passing them from hackers to fraudsters. There are even reports that the hackers are being hacked.

The Insurance Informatio­n Institute reports that government benefits programs are now the largest single target for these thieves, above even credit cards because of the high volume of unemployme­nt claims being filed due to COVID-19.

There have been reports of fake texts, fake Facebook groups claiming to be the TWC and phishing emails.

“If you get something unsolicite­d from us, don’t ever reply with personal informatio­n,” James Bernsen, a TWC spokespers­on, said. “If you have any concerns it’s fraud, go to fraud portal (on the website) and report it.”

Anyone who receives a letter stating that they have applied for benefits, when they didn’t, is likely a victim of identity theft. They should report it immediatel­y on the TWC fraud portal.

The TWC says they should also take the following steps:

• Contact the police department in the city in which you reside and get an incident report and number. Consult the Federal Trade Commission website to report the ID theft and for prevention tips and resources.

Contact one of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax ( 800-349-9960); Experian (888-397-3742); or TransUnion (888-9098872)

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