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Fort Smith/Fayetteville News | 5newsonline KFSM 5NEWS | Get the local news and weather where you live from 5NEWS. Covering Fort Smith, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and all of Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley.

Unemployment scam impacts dozens of University of Arkansas employees

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are targeting unemployment benefits.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Dozens of University of Arkansas employees and others around the state and country are falling victim to an unemployment scam. Many only realized they were apart of the scam after receiving a denial letter from the state in the mail - not knowing someone stole their social security number to fraudulently file for benefits. 

According to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, con-artists are lurking behind computer screens trying to steal taxpayer funds by filing for unemployment. 

 “Those services are now being conducted online and that’s what has made it easy for these criminals to take advantage because they now are able to fill out a computer anywhere in the world with stolen information,” Rutledge said. 

The Attorney General has already received reports of about 120 cases of fraud, with 35 employees from the University of Arkansas falling victim. 

“Our HR department started looking inward and talking to our university information and technology services and UAPD to see if there was a breach on our end," John Thomas, a spokesperson with the Univesity of Arkansas, said. 

Thomas says there has been no leak, but the University of Arkansas is bringing in outside help to double-check. 

Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston confirmed with 5NEWS that this scam is the result of a data breach. 

“This goes back to data breaches that might have happened years ago whether it be through the retail or wherever they may have had their identity compromised and people have stored that information or sold it as part of a list,” Preston said. 

In some cases, people are getting a letter in the mail saying their unemployment claim has been denied. When in fact, they never filed for unemployment. 

The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services gets more than 100 thousand weekly claims for unemployment insurance. Preston says when reported, they work quickly to prevent scammers from getting away with the crime. 

“We’re doing our best to get all the funds out to the rightful claims but hopefully we can catch any fraud that’s going on in the midst of all of that,” Preston said. 

State officials are urging people to monitor their credit and bank accounts, and if you think your identity has been taken to file a report with local law enforcement. 

In addition to contacting police, you are asked to call the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services at 501-682-1058, or visit their website for more information. 

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