ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 has uncovered a plot to steal personal information from 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, Florida 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 said. “They were very persistent and their vocabulary was below average.”
The messages and replies obtained seemed evasive. When Seifter asked if she would be able to get her benefits the impostor replied, “Sir right now I think we have to have your log-in and password.”
ID.me spokesperson Nicholas Michael reviewed the messages and confirmed Seifter’s suspicions.
“This is a fraudulent account,” Micahel said. “This is not an official ID.me source.”
The DEO was able to re-open 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, Oglesby said in part: “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 said she was forced to resign from her job in 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 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 are “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 DEO 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.
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