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Hackers target – but fail to scam – local fire district

Scheme seeks to cheat state unemployment program
Scammers tried but failed to cheat the state’s unemployment program.

The Upper Pine River Fire Protection District was recently the target of a scam that’s spreading across the state, but quick actions Thursday morning nipped the scheme in the bud.

Chief Bruce Evans said the district became aware Thursday morning that three of its staff members and one board member were almost the victims of a scam that seeks to cheat the state’s unemployment benefits and insurance program.

In the scam, a hacker steals a person’s Social Security number, and then uses that information to apply online for unemployment benefits. The hackers then have the checks sent to an address where they can collect them.

To receive unemployment, however, the state requires confirmation from an employer within 10 days. Evans believes the hackers applied Thursday morning, Christmas Eve, hoping the confirmation email would be lost in the holiday shuffle.

“It’s pretty crafty of them,” he said.

Evans said the district does not know how the Social Security numbers were breached, but given that the hackers took a board member’s information, a non-paid position, he believes the data was stolen at the state level.

The district reported the breach to the state Department of Labor as well as the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

This type of scam is being seen throughout the state, especially at a time where record numbers of people are applying for unemployment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Unfortunately, with the rise in unemployment insurance claims associated with COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in fraudulent claims and other instances of fraud,” the department’s website says.

The Department of Labor recommended regularly reviewing credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus to look for incorrect or fraudulent information. If there’s any suspicious activity, it’s recommended to report it right away.

Filing a report with a local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission is also recommended.


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