Suspects target teachers in nationwide unemployment scam

Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 7:25 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - Scams are at an all-time high during the pandemic, and an unemployment scam going around is now targeting teachers.

The Colorado Springs Police Department says recently there’s been an influx of reports from employees of local school districts stating their identities were stolen and used to file for unemployment. CSPD says this is happening not only in Colorado Springs but across the state and nation.

“The big difference from this year last year as we are seeing a real influx in unemployment scams that are coming through and it started right around COVID or soon after COVID and it seems to be ramping up lately,” says Sgt. Joe Matiatos with CSPD.

11 News reached out to every school district in Colorado Springs. Out of the ones who responded, almost every district reported that staff and teachers were facing something similar.

Fraudulent unemployment claims are being made on behalf of local educators who are still employed. CSPD says they believe the suspects doing this are taking advantage of the pandemic and the assistance the government is working to give to people in need.

Combined, the two largest districts in Colorado Springs, Academy District 20 and Colorado Springs School District 11, reported more than 80 staff members and teachers who fell victim. Luckily for the district employees, the human resources teams were able to catch the mishap and prevent it from taking a bigger toll.

“We had one of our HR members who was going through the list and she noticed an unemployment claim for an employee that she had just spoken to in the hallway,” says Allison Cortez, the chief communications officer for D-20.

District 11 tells us they noticed something similar.

“We were getting a tremendous amount of claims. Many of those claims were from executive directors, directors, our teachers, all employees who still had their current position, who never lost any of their pay or any of those things. So, we started looking into it,” says Danniella Ewen, the executive director of Human Resources in D-11.

In some cases, teachers and staff members received a letter in the mail from the Colorado Department of Labor and Unemployment, as well as a debit card to use for benefits. According to CSPD, in some instances, the scammers don’t even wait for the card to be delivered; instead, they wipe the money off of the card as soon as they get the card information.

“Once the money is approved, they’re able to move that money to their account,” Matiatos said.

Local districts tell 11 News when an unemployment claim crosses their HR department, they never approve the claim until they’ve actually spoken to that employee to make sure the claim is real.

“When we get an unemployment claim in Academy District 20, we physically have a member of our human resources team pick up the phone and have a one-on-one conversation with that person, and that’s how we really spot things that are fraudulent,” says Cortez.

Some local districts have a message to the scammers doing this, especially during a time that’s been so taxing on their staff.

“I’d ask that you really take to heart what you’re doing to people, because this is a lot of added pressure on them and they have to go through a multitude of steps to protect themselves,” says Ewen.

“This year has just been one for the books, right? It’s been hard, and this is the last thing that one of our teachers needs to be dealing with ... you know, a fraudulent unemployment claim,” says Cortez.

If you notice a fraudulent claim made in your name, you should contact CSPD and file a report with them. If you’re a teacher experiencing this, your district recommends you contact HR for help.

“If we have any teachers or staff members in our district that are currently dealing with this, we want them to know you are not alone. You do not have to deal with this alone. Our HR department is amazing. They are here to help you. They have tips and tricks about how to handle this,” says Cortez.

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