COVID heightens cyber criminal activity

By Stephanie Wallace

In January of this year, America saw its first Covid-19 case and has since seen waves of violence, death and unemployment. Most recently, it has also seen identity theft.

Among some of the people who have become victims to identity theft and fraud are JJC’s own staff and faculty members. The college has been notified of false claims to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, according to Interim Executive Director of Human Resources Judy Connelly.

“In the past month, we have been notified of over 40 current JJC employees with claims in the IDES unemployment system,” Connelly said.

Current employees have received notifications that they are registered as unemployed and are receiving benefits when, in reality, they have never filed any sort of claims.

“We haven’t heard of any money being stolen,” said Steve Troc, HR manager for compensation and benefits unemployment. “It is a strange situation.”

Currently, according to Connelly, there is nothing to indicate that there has been a breach of information, data or security at JJC. Situations like these are happening all over the country, and the FBI is currently investigating the situation.

Troc said people in unemployment offices are working with the post office to investigate. Connelly said people should be on the lookout for a few things.

“You may be a victim of unemployment fraud if you have not filed an unemployment claim but you have received a debit card or an unemployment insurance (UI) finding letter or are notified by Human Resources,” Connelly said.

Human Resources instructs that any employees who have become victims of unemployment fraud protest the unemployment claim and then immediately inform their banks, credit cards, social security office and local police office.

Employees who have any concerns about fraud have been directed to the IDES website where they provide advice on how to handle fraud.

Because identity theft is a national problem that has picked up during the pandemic, advice and warnings are being posted across the web.

“COVID-19 has provided fuel for cyber criminals to prey upon the public’s concern about this global crisis,” PNC Insights said. “Recent scams are designed to trick people into sending money, to disclosing personal information or to click on emails and websites that deliver computer malware.”

Identity theft happens when personal information such as a credit card number or a social security number is stolen in order to commit crimes or fraud. According to Consumer Affairs, more than 167,000 people have been victims.

“Common Covid-19 scams so far in 2020 include: scam employment posts, phony charity donation offers, and fraudulent investment sites,” according to consumeraffairs.com.

In a survey done by Experian, 55 percent of people have “heard of a scam” involving Covic-19, and 52 percent surveyed said that they were worried about their bank account information being stolen while online shopping. Thirty-three percent have reported doing more online shopping than they did before the pandemic

“Four percent were at least somewhat concerned that their online shopping accounts (like Amazon) will be hacked, and 57 percent were at least somewhat worried generally that shopping online could result in a loss of personal data such as a Social Security Number,” Experian.com stated.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General are warning people of some of the ways that scammers are trying to deceive people during these already confusing times.

“Fraudsters are offering people a $200 Medicare card when no such cards currently exist,” according to oig.hhs.gov.

According to the Office of Inspector General, with older people being more at risk of catching the virus, some scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal information.

In another fraud scheme, some medical labs are targeting retirement communities claiming to offer COVID-19 tests, but they are actually drawing blood and billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services.