Roughly 58 people throughout Montezuma County have reported instances of unemployment fraud to local law enforcement since Jan. 1.
The total includes reports of fraud made to the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office and the Cortez Police Department.
The majority of unemployment fraud reports this year have been instances of perpetrators using another person’s identity, such as a name and or Social Security number, to file for unemployment payments.
Many of the perpetrators are likely from outside the United States.
Not only are scammers helping themselves to taxpayer money, but they also are potentially preventing legitimate payments from getting to citizens affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to District Attorney Matt Margeson, the cases will be handled by authorities at state and federal levels.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced Thursday the creation of a new Colorado Unemployment Fraud Task Force.
Thousands of people throughout the state have been affected by fraud since the start of the pandemic.
“This unprecedented amount of fraud and theft requires a coordinated and comprehensive statewide response, so that wrongdoers can be identified and held accountable,” Weiser stated Thursday.
Since it will not be handling the investigations, the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office recently announced that it will no longer be taking unemployment fraud reports.
Any victim should instead file a report at https://cdle.colorado.gov/fraud-prevention.
“Getting these things reported as soon as possible is the best thing,” Sheriff Steve Nowlin told The Journal.
The U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force also released an alert this week warning the public about fraudsters creating fake websites that mimic government unemployment insurance websites. This also includes state workforce agency websites. Scammers send spam texts and emails, along with a link, purporting to be from state agencies. The websites are designed to trick consumers into revealing personally identifiable information.
Nowlin also told The Journal that he has seen a number of old scams not related to unemployment pop back up throughout the county.
These include scammers calling cell phones and landlines impersonating officials from the Sheriff’s Office, telling locals that there is a warrant for their arrest and they have a few days to pay up.
Scammers also have attempted to fool individuals into believing that a family member is incarcerated and needs bail money.
The Sheriff’s Office said it will not call citizens and will not ask for money.
Nowlin advised that residents be on the lookout for email scams and pop-ups while online. Citizens should also hang up on people asking for money or making threats.
“We want to make sure that our citizens are protected and they’re not being victimized by these frauds that come in and raid their bank accounts,” Nowlin said.