• People selling their homes are receiving unsolicited unemployment benefit payments
  • Scammers are using identity information stolen in data breaches to apply for government benefits
  • If you receive an unsolicited benefits payment, tell your mail carrier or file a fraud report with the Postal Inspector

“After our home was listed on the Multiple Listings Service (MLS), and after major real estate sites like Zillow and Realtor.com picked up our listing, we began receiving dozens of letters daily from the California Employment Development Department. The envelope messaging ranged from everything from ‘timely response requested’ to letters from the Overpayment Department.”

That is what one person recently reported to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), and others are experiencing as well. Unemployment benefits mail fraud scams are making the rounds, leading to threat actors exploiting people whose personal information has been stolen or is otherwise public. Crystal contacted the ITRC to see what could be done to stop the daily delivery of fraudulent benefit payments.

“The first time this happened, I returned the letters to the post office with “Return to Sender. Addressee never lived here. Fraudulent” written on each of the envelopes,” Crystal said. “The next day, we received more letters (17), and by day three, when it looked like there were over 25 letters, our postal carrier knocked on the door. He asked if any of these people ever lived here and, after answering no, asked me what I thought was happening. He said he would let the post office inspector know – and that an investigation would be opened.”

Crystal believes the scammers were using her home address to apply for benefits in other people’s names. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) told the ITRC they are aware of the unemployment benefits mail fraud scam where people receive legitimate benefit debit cards, real confirmation and declination letters, and notices of employment in the mail. The USPIS says they are working with letter carriers to help spot these scams.

Who It Is Targeting

Home sellers; unemployment benefit applicants.

What It Is

Mail fraud scams where victims are receiving suspicious mail regarding unemployment benefits.

What They Are After

Scammers use stolen identity information, including Social Security numbers (SSN), to apply for unemployment benefits using the addresses of homes that are being sold. Once approved, the state unknowingly issues benefits to the attackers. These identity thieves hope to retrieve the benefit cards from the mail at the “for sale” house or contact the homeowner to request the mail be forwarded to the thief.

What You Can Do

If a suspicious offer, promotion or solicitation arrives through the mail, give it to your letter carrier and ask them to pass it along to a Postal Inspector. You can also bring it to your local post office, or forward the solicitation to the USPS Criminal Investigation Service Center at:

U.S. Postal Inspection Service

Criminal Investigations Service Center

433 W. Harrison Street, Room 3255

Chicago, IL 60699-3255

You can report fraud at their website http://www.uspis.gov/ or call 877.876.2455 and say “Fraud.”

The ITRC is here for anyone who is targeted with an unemployment benefits mail fraud scam. Victims can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the website to speak with an expert advisor.