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Identity fraud causes frenzy

By Jeri Borst

Over the past several weeks, numerous reports of identity theft have been made to the Mena Police Department and Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The third week in July, nearly 30 individuals reported financial identity fraud.

“This issue is rampant,” MPD Assistant Chief  Todd Cannon said. “It has been going on a couple of weeks. While we do not know the source or cause of the fraud, we do know the issue is with communications that come from the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services.”

Reports of identity fraud that are filed with MPD are sent to ADWS.

“We are taking initial reports so individuals have something to file,” Cannon said. “At first we thought one of the businesses got hacked, but it is numerous businesses and employers.

“This is a statewide problem and people need to be aware,” Cannon continued. “If they get a letter or an email from Arkansas Division of Workforce Services about unemployment when no benefits have been applied for or something in the communication seems suspicious, it is likely part of the identity fraud issue that has been going on. Those individuals can come down to the station and make a report.”

Polk County Sheriff Scott Sawyer said his office has  taken dozens of reports of unemployment fraud.

“If you believe you’ve been a victim, please contact your local law enforcement. Many of our victims became aware that someone had filed to receive unemployment benefits under their name either from their employers or when they received a letter from The Department of Workforce Services,” Sawyer said.

“In a large-scale scam erupting in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, imposters are filing claims for unemployment benefits, using the names and personal information of people who have not filed claims,” Sawyer continued. “People learn about the fraud when they get a notice from their state unemployment benefits office or their employer about their supposed application for benefits.

Sawyer said the fraud is a result of someone is misusing personal information, including Social Security number and date of birth.

Individuals who believe they have be a victim of fraud are encouraged to act fast and follow these tips:

•Report the fraud to your employer. Keep a record of who you spoke with and when.

•File a report with law enforcement

•File a report with Arkansas Division of Workforce Services by visiting and completing the form, emailing, or by calling 501-682-1058.

•Keep any confirmation or case number you get. If you speak with anyone, keep a record of who you spoke with and when.

•If possible, report the fraud online. An online report will save you time and be easier for the agency to process.

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