Thieves have set a plot to steal personal information from Florida residents who are trying to obtain state unemployment benefits.
The thieves are posing as representatives of ID.me the security partner hired by the Department of Employment Opportunity to verify identities of Florida unemployment applicants.
Kim Seifter, of Brandon, said she received what appeared to be a legitimate message from ID.me via Facebook messenger.
“When I saw the message come from ID.me I didn’t red flag it until I noticed they kept referring to me as sir,” she told News 6, “They were very persistent and their vocabulary was below average.”
The messages obtained by News 6 were evasive. When Seifter asked if she would be able to get her benefits, the imposter replied “Sir right now I think we have to have your log-in and password.”
Id.me spokesman Nicholas Michael reviewed the messages and confirmed the suspicions.
“This is a fraudulent account,” he said, “This is not an official ID.me source.”
Michael said users who feel the ID.me contact is suspicious should “double-check” the full text in the address bar to confirm it is not coming from a different domain name.
“Our security team works around the clock with Google, Facebook and Twitter to shut these imposter pages down, but fraudsters are constantly popping up with new accounts,” he said, " We are continuing to dedicate time and resources to stopping these bad actors.”
The DEO was able to reopen Seifter’s account last week but the investigation, prompted by News 6, is just getting started.
Emilie Oglesby, the DEO’s Director of Communications acknowledged there had been some system delays even before the impostor messages started showing up.
In a statement to News 6:
“Florida was the first state to implement ID.me as an identity verification resource for claimants who were unable to access their CONNECT account and the Department is still working through the logistics of fully integrating the ID.me identity verification tool to the CONNECT system.”
Seifter told News 6 she was forced to resign from her job in of April 2020 because of the COVID-19 risk.
“I have severe diabetes so my immune system is compromised,” she said
Seifter contacted Make Ends Meet last week because she was locked out of her DEO account despite having been cleared by the real ID.me on May 25.
News 6 has been tracking dozens of similar stories of unemployed Floridians verified by ID.me, but still unable to unlock their accounts.
Both the Deo and ID.me Fraud teams have launched an investigation after News 6 provided the email and fake messages.
Oglesby said Fraud detection and research is ”Ongoing at the Department.”
She stressed that claimants should always make sure their information is accurate.
“Claimants should also make sure to verify any suspicious emails or phone calls to make sure they are official correspondences, and to mitigate instances of Reemployment Assistance fraud or identity theft on their end,” she said.
The Department also provided an identity theft toolkit which details what Floridians should do if they are a victim of identity theft, and steps they should take to mitigate fraudulent activity on their account. To view the identity theft toolkit, click here.
If you have an unemployment or jobs issue, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.