CEDAR PARK, Texas - It’s not how Faith Davis wanted to burn a vacation day.
Her trips to speak to law enforcement and her bank Wednesday were necessary all because of a letter she received on April 1st.
The letter was a notification that an application for unemployment benefits was made under her name. She is not out of work and that fake claim could do more than just prevent a check if she needs help in the future.
"If someone collected benefits under my name I could get a tax statement next year, for any money that they accumulated," said Davis.
The Texas Workforce Commission is dealing with similar cases. The agency reports that since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly four million people have filed for unemployment benefits. Of that number, as of March 20th, more than 373,000 cases have been flagged as suspicious.
TWC spokesperson James Bernsen told FOX7 that in 2019 the commission only had about 1,100 cases. It’s estimated the workforce commission has paid out $577 million in claims that may be the result of fraud.
"I’m doing what I can do to protect myself at this point, the police report is the first thing to protect yourself against that," said Davis.
Investigators and cyber experts say what’s happening in Texas is happening nationwide and may be part of a massive organized effort. Cedar Park police are among the law enforcement agencies that have seen an increase in the number of fraud complaints being filed.
"I would say probably in the last 2 to 3 weeks, probably, anywhere from 45 to 60 cases individually," said CPPD Sgt. Scott Buchanan.
In many of the cases this new spike, according to Buchanan, seems to use an old tactic.
"The way they get the information is your typical phishing scams. One of the reports we had, the victim made it well known their company itself was compromised. So they do this, they go on and send out emails, you click on a link that is suspicious, you may not think so, and all of a sudden they've got your information, and then they are going to go online and file for the unemployment benefits," said Sgt. Buchanan.
Officials with the Texas Workforce Commission have hired additional investigators. As a result, the rate of fraud being caught is now at about 80%. A key part of that is people like Faith Davis who did the right thing and didn’t hesitate to file a report locally and with the state.
In a news release issued by the TWC on April 2nd, the agency urged victims to contact the TWC Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline 800-252-3642. Reports can also be made on the TWC online fraud submission portal.