During the pandemic, unemployment fraud was a big issue in Colorado — fraudsters stole tens of millions of dollars from our state, and thousands of genuine unemployment claims are still being held up due to fraud holds. CBS4 Investigates happens to be now getting an inside check at how crooks from all over the world have been committing joblessnessfake in the Centennial State.
CBS4 Investigates discovered dumps of Coloradans’ identities termed “fullz” on the black market, marketed as the gateway to submit fake pandemic unemployment aid claims, after conducting a comprehensive search of different dark web forums and markets.
“What’s unfortunate today use to be that someone’s identity happens to be very likely being stored by some cybercriminal, either from one of the many data breaches that we’ve heard about in recent years, or things like basic phishing attacks whichhappens to be all too common today,” said Crane Hassold of Agari, a cyber-security firm that closely monitors the dark web. “The methods that cyber thieves use to gather identification information are just much too simple nowadays, and as a result, there are numerous routes via which that information is subsequently sold on underground forums and dark web marketplaces.”
CBS4 Investigates discovered an advertisement seeking identities from multiple states, including Colorado, on a dark web marketplace. The vendors display some example IDs to demonstrate that the collection of identities for sale is genuine.
The commercial uses a man from Pueblo as an example. His birthday, social security number, phone number, residence, and his mother’s maiden name even are all shown.
CBS4 Investigates reached out to the man over the phone. He understandably did not want to be interviewed, but he claims that over the last year, someone attempted to file for unemployment in Puerto Rico using his name, and that six new credit cards were applied for in his name.
Hassold has been tracking unemployment fraud talk on the dark web since the outbreak began. He claims that a collection of 500 IDs is generally sold for approximately $20.
“It’s all business, investing in particular expenses to try to earn more money,” Hassold explained. “We view of these things as criminal behaviour, but for most of these people, this is their profession, this is how they make a livelihood, and they’re just investing in knowledge that might possibly make them more money in the future.”
Identity isn’t the only thing exchanged online. Fraudsters are also exchanging insider information on how to effectively exploit the system.
“At this time, we’ve probably discovered instructions for a dozen or more different states that have propagated in various internet forums about how to submit unemployment claims in those jurisdictions,” Hassold said. “We also discovered additional instructions on how to get around various protections that have been set up.”
CBS4 Investigates also discovered crooks offering free guidance.
On one dark web forum, a criminal described how to post false job advertisements in order to gather personal information or “fullz” oneself in order to make false unemployment claims with that information.
According to the site, “never underestimate the power of a little social engineering or the power of foolish people on Craigslist.”
“What we’ve seen is this Robin Hood mindset, where a lot of these cyber criminals, a lot of these fraudsters, are really gladly sharing their methods openly with other persons, in order to attempt to enhance the success rate for other people as well,” Hassold said. “So they’re not storing all of this information and selling it to the highest bidder.”
This year, these crooks have given thousands of Coloradans a headache.
As of July 1, there were still 4,310 Coloradans whose identities had been satisfactorily validated, but their claims were still being held up due to fraud holds imposed in response to this illegal activity.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has been trying to remove fraud holds “en masse” in order to provide some relief for people, but certain other holds must be evaluated manually, which can take months, resulting in months of no money for our state’s jobless.
Meanwhile, state and federal authorities have begun cracking down on the scammers.
“The overall impact of the amount of fraud that is being attempted here is staggering,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser. “What is going on here is wrong, and we are going to go after these situations in Colorado that we can prosecute.”
Weiser encourages all Coloradans to monitor their credit reports.
“In today’s environment, we promote a simple mantra: continuous vigilance,” said Weiser. “If you aren’t monitoring your credit reports, and there are many credit cards that offer free service, it is possible that someone is taking your identity and you aren’t aware of it.”
If you have been a victim of fraud, Weiser’s office has prepared an identity theft repair kit to assist you.