Island County employees targets of employment benefits fraud

About 30 employees of Island County government are victims of a complex Nigerian scheme to steal unemployment benefits.

Melanie Bacon, human resources director, said the scammers apply for benefits in other people’s names, often after setting up fake bank accounts in other states.

She explained that the county alerts employees as soon as they discover fraud and contact the state unemployment office.

Employees are asked to file a complaint with I-COM dispatch so that a record exists.

Bacon said she also advises everyone, not just Island County employees, to check their credit score.

“That’s the scary part,” Bacon said. “An employee might find that their credit score is screwed up.”

The Washington Post and other news agencies have reported that the fraudsters in Nigeria use personal information that was obtained in data breaches, such as the giant Equifax breach in 2017.

Nigeria is home to the longest-running email scam, the news agencies reported. Under the scheme, people receive an email that was supposedly from a Nigerian prince who is offering millions of dollars as a reward, but needs a cash advance to complete a wire transfer.

Bacon said fraud has become a huge concern this year because of the sheer amount of unemployment benefits that are available to help people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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