The AI Workforce of Tomorrow – the Shifting Landscape of Texas Careers  

Check out the free AI webinar here!

With every passing day, our reliance on artificial intelligence (AI) increases. As consumers, AI makes our lives easier. For businesses, AI can speed up customer service and increase sales. For workers and job seekers, many would prefer if AI never existed because they are concerned AI replaces human jobs or makes getting your foot in the door more difficult. But are those fears and prejudices warranted? Or is there an unfair stigma about AI? The reality is, when you dig deeper, when one door closes more open.  

What is AI? 

Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with what exactly AI is, you’re not alone.  

What do Siri, Google Voice Assistant, or Alexa all have in common? They are AI. In the simplest of terms, AI is coding computers to act and think like people. Most commonly, AI systems are used to make getting information to a customer easier and faster. In 2020, TWC implemented AI to create Larry the Chat Bot to assist with unemployment claims. Larry quickly grew from answering 20 of the most common questions to over 100 and has helped millions of Texans. To date, the bot has answered over 19.5 million questions.   

Misconceptions about AI and Careers 

The common misconception is that AI means historically stable, good-paying jobs are going to be stolen by computers and machines. It’s true, some jobs may be replaced by AI, but that’s only looking at one side of the coin, so to speak. It’s better to think about AI as not replacing a workforce, but supporting the workforce which supports the customer.  

For businesses, utilizing AI can free up staff to focus on harder tasks or provide more focused customer support. As an example, TWC utilized AI to assist tele-center staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Creating a chat bot that could answer common questions instantly and simultaneously to thousands of users helped take some of the burden off tele-center staff. This allowed staff the time to concentrate their efforts on assisting customers with more difficult or unique situations. AI was used to assist staff in helping Texans in need, not take away jobs.  

For workers, the use of AI can not only remove some low-value tasks from your plate, but AI itself can actually add more jobs with higher-paying salaries. An AI system needs to be built, coded and maintained to operate as intended. And that’s only the technical side of it. There is a human side to AI too. In order for AI to know how to react and respond, humans have to teach it. Before an AI system can be launched there will need to be client relations and conversations about design. These are positions that are more people-oriented and not reliant on technical skills. 

Many of these tasks can be done by workers with middle skills that require only very short-term training, certifications or education but can connect Texans to a lifetime of increased career potential and earnings. 

Whatever skills you may want or need, TWC is here to help and your area Workforce Solutions Office is an excellent resource for finding local opportunities. 

Be a Wizard Behind the Curtain 

Behind every good AI system, there are the wizards behind the curtain. It takes a host of designers, coders, technology scientists, maintenance technicians and engineers to create, run and maintain these processes. These are in-demand, high-paying jobs and recently, TWC earmarked up to $9 million in grant funding to put more Texas workers on a path to careers in these rewarding middle skills job.  

The initiative to end the middle skills gap builds on existing TWC programs and services, which are available to all Texans through https://www.twc.texas.gov/ or through 180 Workforce Solutions Centers around the state.  

Call your local Workforce Solutions Center to find out what middle skills training opportunities there are in your area, and check out the free AI webinar here to see how TWC is approaching in-demand careers associated with AI.  

Head Starts for Youth  

The growing demand for high-skilled technical workers to fill positions associated with AI means Texas must continue to attract more students into STEM fields. It’s important to introduce students to STEM-based training at an early age to better prepare them to compete for the high demand careers of the present and future. Our specialized industries rely on TWC programs like Camp CodeSummer Earn and Learn, Explore STEM! and the Governor’s Summer Merit Program to inspire young Texans to continue their studies in science and engineering fields which gives them a head-start towards rewarding careers with competitive salaries. 

Looking Ahead 

AI is part of our lives and will continue to expand and grow along with technology. And while some of us may still be frightened that machines will take over and turn us into batteries, the reality of it is the more AI expands, the more high-paying, exciting career opportunities there will be in Texas. TWC supports, and will continue to support, programs that help hard-working Texans gain the middle skills they need to succeed in our fast-pace, competitive, rewarding Texas economy.  

Contact your area Workforce Solutions Office to find local training opportunities to hear more about TWC’s approach to harnessing the power of AI to create more jobs for Texans, check out the free AI webinar here

The Importance of Training

No matter where you are in your career, training can benefit you. Training can be the first step towards your dream career, it can be used to upskill you to higher-pay and more responsibility within the job you have, or it can be used to qualify you for one of the many middle skills positions that are in high demand with Texas employers across the state. These are jobs that require only very short-term training or education but can connect Texans to a lifetime of increased career potential and earnings.

For employers, training is a crucial element for staff development and retention as it allows you to upskill your workers to meet the needs of your company while simultaneously showing that you value the progress of their careers within your organization.

Whatever training you may want or need, TWC is here to help and your area Workforce Solutions Office is an excellent resource for finding local opportunities.

Innovation in Training

Training needs to be flexible and shift to meet the needs of not only the employer, but workers too. For example, with the widening middle skills gap, we need to encourage programs to explore creative, new approaches to training that can lead to faster credentials for workers. Providing targeted, short-term training in the most in-demand industries quickly provides employers with a talented pool of qualified workers.

The Texas Talent Connection Grant Program, funded by Wagner-Peyser 7(b) federal funds, is one tool Texas uses to encourage innovation in workforce development with an emphasis on training that leads to job placement, increased wages, and job retention; stresses efficiency and innovation in training; and is inclusive for those with special needs.

These grants encourage businesses to take advantage of skilled Texans in their area who are eager to learn in-demand skills for higher-paying jobs and career advancement.

The TWC is responsible for processes related to Texas Talent Connection grant award negotiation, funding, management, and monitoring.

“The right training can truly change someone’s life and put them on the road towards a rewarding career,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez. “The TWC remains committed to supporting programs that think outside the box to help Texas’ dedicated workers remain the most sought after in the world.”

(left to right): Eduardo Salgado, recruiter/training specialist for Keppal AmFELS; Tony Vega, welder instructor for Keppal AmFELS; Ruben Vega, human resources director for Steelcoast; Adela Garza, TSC Board of Trustee & past board chair; Julian Alvarez, Texas Workforce Commission Commissioner Representing Labor; Pat Hobbs, Executive Director of Workforce Solutions Cameron; Henry Castillo, Regional Director for Workforce Solutions Cameron; Joanna Kile, Ph.D., TSC vice president of instruction; Jesus Roberto Rodriguez, Ph.D., TSC president; and Joseph Fleishman, TSC associate vice president of Instruction and Workforce Development.  

Training to Tackle the Middle Skills Gap

Recently, TWC earmarked up to $9 million in grant funding for job creation, job preparedness, and job progression activities to help put more Texas workers on a path to a career in a rewarding middle skills job. Eligible activities under the initiative include: a career pathways app for students and job seekers, one-on-one job coaching, training and certifications in high demand occupations, and a mobile credential tracker. Furthermore, the agency will leverage new and existing programs to optimize participation of foster youth and people with disabilities.

The initiative to end the middle skills gap builds on existing TWC programs and services, which are available to all Texans through https://www.twc.texas.gov/ or through 180 Workforce Solutions Centers around the state.

Different Paths for Job and Skills Training

There are many different ways to get job and skills training. Here are some more programs that promote training for workforce development:

  • Skills Development Fund – The Skills Development Fund grant program supports customized job skills training for incumbent and new employees in collaboration with Texas public community and technical colleges and local employers. Some of the Skills Development Funds are leveraged to support dual-credit high school and college career and technical education programs, and training for veterans transitioning to civilian life. Training provided advances the skills of existing workers and creates new job opportunities.
  • Apprenticeships – Apprenticeship combines paid on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced journey workers with related classroom instruction. Most registered apprenticeship training programs last from three to five years as determined by industry standards.
  • Jobs and Education for Texans – The Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grant program exists to assist public community, state and technical colleges, and ISDs with purchasing and installing equipment necessary for the development of career and technical education courses or programs that lead to a license, certificate or postsecondary degree in a high-demand occupation.
  • High Demand Job Training – The High Demand Job Training (HDJT) program supports Boards’ partnership with local EDCs as a way to leverage local economic development sales taxes for high-demand job training. Boards collaborate with local EDCs and match their local economic development sales tax funds to jointly support the provision of such training. 
  • Texas Industry Partnership Program – The Texas Industry Partnership program supports collaborations between local workforce development boards and industry partners through the leveraging of matching contributions of cash or qualifying expenditures for occupational job training.
  • Self Sufficiency Fund – The Self-Sufficiency Fund grant program provides training for adult recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or individuals at risk of becoming dependent on public assistance. The Self Sufficiency Fund provides training grants for industry recognized certificates and credentials that lead to permanent full-time employment.
  • Skills for Small Businesses – The Skills for Small Business program supports collaborations between Workforce Solutions partners and small businesses. This initiative provides state-funded training to businesses to meet their needs, with an emphasis on training new workers or upgrading skills of incumbent workers.

Employers and job seekers alike can leverage the benefits of these programs. To find out about training opportunities in your area contact your local Workforce Solutions Office!

Team Effort

From the Governor’s Office and the Texas Legislature to TWC working with local Workforce Solutions Offices, educators, and Economic Development Corporations, we are committed to training the workforce of Texas to not only meet the needs of our world class employers, but also putting Texans on the path to life-changing careers. Careers aren’t one-size fits all, so why should training be? TWC and our partners strive to make sure training is not only useful, but flexible, nimble, and open to innovation.

Keep Fighting Fraud

Did you know that according to the Center for Victim Research an estimated 1 in 10 Americans have had their identities stolen? By working together, and by practicing internet security best practices, we can stop fraud in its tracks and make sure your identity remains safe and secure.

How is my identity being stolen?

No TWC systems have been breached, but criminal elements can use identities stolen from Texans in an attempt to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits. The most common ways an identity is stolen is through data breaches, hacking and phishing. Hacking of cell phones and other portable devices is now a worrying trend when it comes to identity theft. While many people have strong security on their computers, they may not have these protections on their cell phones and tablets. Remember, if you wouldn’t click on a link or reply to a message on your computer, follow the same level of vigilance on your phone or tablet.

The best ways to protect yourself and stop ID thieves in their tracks are:

  • Monitor your credit regularly.  
  • Install and use antivirus and antispyware software. Be sure to update this software frequently.
  • Never give out your private data – like your social security number – to anyone unless absolutely necessary. Legitimate organizations that need this data, like the IRS, will not call, email or text you to ask for it. 
  • Do not post your social security number, screenshots of your UI accounts, bank or payment information, or even your home address on any social media platform, even in direct messages to TWC.
  • When in doubt, ask questions. Ask why the organization needs it, how they will protect it, if there is an alternative identifier that can be used instead, and if the organization can use only the last 4 digits of the SSN. 

How to know if your identity has been stolen:

The best way to make sure your identity hasn’t been stolen is constant vigilance. There are some telltale signs someone has stolen your identity and is using it for fraudulent purposes. Here are some actions you can take to monitor for identity theft.

  • Track the bills you owe and their bill dates. If you stop getting a bill, it might be a sign someone has changed the billing address. 
  • Review all bills, charges and bank statements to look for anything that seems suspicious or out of the ordinary.
  • Check your credit reports. 
  • Consider using identity monitoring services. 

Stopping fraud is a team effort

Treat your TWC account and all accounts like you would your bank account. If you suspect fraud is occurring, report the fraud immediately using the TWC fraud portal. The Texas Workforce Commission will investigate every unemployment benefit claim to confirm identity and to lock accounts that are fraudulent. With your help, we can help Texans in need by stopping these criminals from fraudulently obtaining unemployment insurance benefits.

Where Does the Unemployment Rate Come From?

One of the most looked at and talked about economic indicators is the Unemployment Rate. Generally speaking, an economy with a low unemployment rate is considered to be in good shape. An economy with a higher unemployment rate is considered to need improvement. 

In May and June 2019 the unemployment rate in Texas was 3.4 percent, a record low going back to 1976. That’s good! In April 2020, largely due to COVID-19 and measures taken to slow its spread, the unemployment rate spiked to 12.9 percent. Record high. Not good. In March 2021, the rate was still elevated at 6.9 percent, but clearly improving. 

But what are we talking about here? Where does this number come from? How is the Texas unemployment rate calculated? What information is the unemployment rate based on? 

3 Things that Make Up the Unemployment Rate 

  1. Unemployed population (UNEMP): Texans who are currently looking for employment 
  1. Employed population (EMP): Texans who are currently employed 
  1. Civilian Labor Force (CLF): The total sum of the Unemployed and Employed populations 

How We Calculate Unemployment Rate

There are two steps to calculate Texas’ unemployment rate, using the above information: 

  1. Civilian Labor Force = Unemployed Population + Employed Population 
  1. (Unemployed Population ÷ Civilian Labor Force) x 100* = Unemployment Rate 

The Unemployment Rate changes each month, as more people enter the workforce, leave the workforce, become unemployed, or become employed.  

Who makes up Texas’ Employed Population? 

Texas’ Employed Population (EMP) contains people who are:  

  • currently employed 
  • at least 16 years old 
  • not on active duty 
  • not in a nursing home or a prison or otherwise institutionalized 

Who makes up Texas’ Unemployed Population?  

Texas’ Unemployed Population (UNEMP) contains people who are:  

  • currently seeking employment 
  • at least 16 years old 
  • not on active duty 
  • not in a nursing home or a prison or otherwise institutionalized 

How We Determine Who Is Included in the Unemployment Rate 

Simply put, the unemployment rate only contains people who fit into the Civilian Labor Force (CLF): 

  • People over 16 who are 
  • Employed or 
  • Actively seeking employment 

Does the Civilian Labor Force (CLF) Equal Every Texan? Does the Unemployment Rate Include Every Texan? 

No. The CLF is Not Everybody. Therefore, the unemployment rate does not include every Texan because the unemployment rate can only be calculated from people who are employed or actively looking for employment. 

It’s not your retired war veteran uncle who lives in Ft Lauderdale.  

It’s not your 10-year-old daughter who just got braces and wants to be an astronaut.  

And if you (yes, you) are enjoying some time off right now before you jump back into the job market, then it’s not you, either.  

Everyone in the CLF right now either has a job or wants one badly enough to look, right now.  

Show Me the Data – Where do the numbers really come from? 

But how do we determine how many people are in the CLF? And how do we determine how many of those are EMP and how many are UNEMP?  

The U.S. Government has two principle ways of gathering information about large populations of people:  

  1. The Census 
  1. Surveys.  

A survey involves getting information from a few people in a population and using probabilities to allow their responses to represent what is likely the case for the rest of the population.  

A good example is the U.S. Government’s Current Population Survey (CPS), which is conducted every month by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is the main source used for calculating the unemployment rate. The CPS covers a multitude of topics, including the respondent’s relationship to the labor force. About 60,000 households nationwide receive the CPS every month. 

The labor force-related section of the CPS is 45 pages long and consists of more than 200 questions. That might seem overwhelming but sophisticated skip patterns use the responses to several questions to ensure respondents are asked only a small set of questions about themselves. Averaged over eight months of interviews, the labor force section of the CPS interview lasts about six minutes per person.  

Want to see what that labor force section of the CPS looks like? Check it out here

Based on the answers provided to the labor force questions in the CPS, data collectors can determine 1) whether a person is a part of the CLF, and 2) whether they should be classified as EMP or UNEMP. The numbers that result from the CPS, including CLF, EMP, UNEMP, and URATE, are estimates. Like many estimates that come from surveys, they are subject to revision.  

What does this mean for me? 

First, it means that when you look at the URATE released every month by the Texas Workforce Commission or another state workforce agency or BLS, you can be confident that it is based on real information gathered from real people across Texas and across the country.  

Second, it means that if you ever receive a Current Population Survey from BLS, and you well may, then you would be doing yourself and your state and nation a great service by providing the information requested. It takes mere minutes, is completely confidential, and it does make a difference. 

For more information, visit the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Home Page (bls.gov)

Takeaways 

As you can see, the unemployment rate is a valuable number that tells a specific story when it is released each month. It is not just a percentage of the population that is not working. It is a percentage of the 16-and-over population that, had they their druthers, would have a job right now, but unfortunately does not. 

* Multiplying by 100 is necessary to convert the decimal number to a percentage. 

Watch out for IMPOSTERS!

As disappointing as it may seem, there are people who will attempt to take advantage of Texans in times of need. TWC is reminding everyone to be vigilant when attempting to seek help or assistance online. Take steps to secure your identity online by practicing internet security best practices. Treat your TWC account and all accounts like you would your bank account.

What should I be on the lookout for on social media?

There are cleverly-designed fake social media sites and profiles that look like they come from TWC, but really they are scams that will let thieves steal your identity. They will then use your identity to apply for fraudulent unemployment benefits under your name or sell your information to someone who will. TWC does not conduct business or take personal information on its social media sites so if anyone asks for that information through social media, do not give it to them.

Do not to send any personally identifiable information or transact any business except through TWC’s unemployment insurance (UI) portal or Telecenters.

What should I be on the lookout for through email?

There was a recent scam using a spoof email address designed to mimic the TWC address. This scam was not only attempting to trick Texans into giving them sensitive information but also claiming there was a fee for applying for unemployment benefits. Applying for unemployment benefits is free and no authorized TWC representative would ever claim there is a payment needed to file a claim or expedite a request. TWC would also never ask for a social security number or similarly sensitive, personal information through email.

Again, do not to send any personally identifiable information or transact any business except through TWC’s unemployment insurance (UI) portal or Telecenters. 

What assistance can I get through social media or email?  

TWC uses social media and email to alert claimants to useful information that may assist them with understanding or applying for benefits. If there is information needed for a particular claimant’s case, an email may be sent directing that person to either the UI portal or TWC’s Telecenters. 

If you have general questions that are not claim specific, you are welcome to seek assistance through social media, but please be aware that staff working on social media do not have access to the claims database so they will be unable to give claim specific assistance or guidance. The best way to get assistance with your claim is either the UI portal or TWC’s Telecenters. 

TWC’s authorized social media accounts, used for providing useful tips and guidance only, include: 

  • Facebook:  facebook.com/texasworkforcecommission 
  • Twitter:  twitter.com/TXWorkforce 
  • LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/Texas-workforce-commission 

TWC and Fraud

TWC places prevention of fraud as its highest priority and is committed to tracking down fraudsters and bringing them to justice. The agency investigates every unemployment benefit claim to confirm identity and to lock accounts that are fraudulent. While TWC continues to work with law enforcement at all levels to prosecute fraud, all Texans can help stop this crime before it happens. If you receive correspondence suggesting a fraudulent unemployment insurance claim has been filed, please report it on the TWC fraud portal at:

https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/UiFraudSubmission/uifs/uifraud

$2.7 Million in JET Grants Providing a Pathway to Success in Rio Grande Valley

When preparing for high-paying, in-demand careers, the greatest advantage we can give our students is the ability train on the most advanced equipment available. The Rio Grande Valley, thanks to nearly $2.7 million in Jobs and Education for Texans (JET) grants, has been able to provide this kind of opportunity for their students while giving them the self-assurance to say, “yes, I can do this,” as they confidently pursue life-changing careers. 

In a ceremony attended by TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez, eleven JET grants were awarded to local ISDs. The event, which took place at the McAllen convention center, was a celebration of how the JET grant program has provided high school students in the Rio Grande Valley access to the resources they need for career exploration and training. The equipment, purchased through the JET grant funding, has been used to give students a head start on pursuing professions that are eager for their skills, talent, and drive.

“What an event and what a way to celebrate local schools by developing programs that help their students get an early start toward rewarding careers,” said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez.

Check out a video of the event here!

Who received these grants?

The grants were awarded to:

  • Laredo ISD was awarded $266,906 to train students in welding.
  • Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD was awarded $269,624 to train students in the automotive service industry.
  • Rio Hondo ISD was awarded $227,269 for training for careers in health sciences.
  • Rio Grande City CISD was awarded $285,049 to train students in welding.
  • Raymondville ISD was awarded $171,855 for training for careers in nursing.    
  • Point Isabel ISD was awarded $280,954 for training for careers in nursing. 
  • La Joya ISD was awarded $247,126 to train students in welding.
  • Weslaco ISD was awarded $235,570 for training for careers in Advanced Manufacturing Technology.
  • La Feria ISD was awarded $238,545 to train students to become Patient Care Technicians. 
  • Mercedes ISD was awarded $192,833 to provide students with dual credit welding courses.
  • San Benito CISD was awarded $218,491 to train students in welding.

The eleven JET grants have been used to help these districts purchase and install top-of-the-line equipment and provide training to over 1,000 local students for careers in high-demand professions. Read the press release for more information on the grants.

What are JET Grants?

JET grants make sure our workforce is trained to be ready and competitive in the Texas job market. The JET program exists to assist public community, state and technical colleges, and ISDs with purchasing and installing equipment necessary for the development of career and technical education courses or programs that lead to a license, certificate or postsecondary degree in a high-demand occupation.

How can someone apply for a JET grant?

Eligible educational institutions can apply for the next phase of JET funding through a competitive grant process. The Request for Applications solicitation provides information and instruction on how to submit a proposal packet. Go to the JET Grant Program webpage to access any active or open Request for Applications solicitation. Active and previous JET RFAs can be found on the Texas state comptroller’s Electronic State Business Daily Search http://www.txsmartbuy.com/esbd.

How can my student take advantage of these grants?

JET grants are distributed to ISDs and public community, state and technical colleges across the state. If this type of training interests you or your student, you should contact your school counselors to see if there are any local opportunities.

Information is the key to great careers

There is no wrong turn or incorrect path to success. We need to remind students that good jobs don’t only come to you by way of a 4-year college degree. Instead, we need to think outside the box and encourage young Texans to find the right fit for them because ALL degrees have merit. For some, perhaps it does make sense to pursue a classic, 4-year option, but for others maybe their goals are better accomplished through a certification or technical degree. Informing students of their options is what’s important. When people know the paths they can take, the routes available to them, life-changing careers are a decision away. JET grants are a key tool TWC uses to make sure all possibilities for future careers are available to students and Texans.

Read more about JET Grants at https://twc.texas.gov/partners/jobs-education-texans-jet-grant-program

More Guidance on How to Combat Fraud

Identity theft is on the rise, and scammers are targeting Texans using stolen information to attempt to gain further information. Fortunately, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has strong protections to identify, track, and lock down fraud attempts, protecting Texas workers and the integrity of the Texas unemployment system. In most cases, we stop the fraud before a single dollar in benefits are paid out, but sometimes nefarious actors do manage to game the system and collect funds they do not deserve. 

Beware if your ID was stolen before

If your identity has ever been stolen, there is higher risk that it can happen again. Once hackers have access to your information, they sell that information on the internet to fraudsters seeking to use it for further hacks, or to steal services or benefits belonging to you. Even if this identity theft occurred many years ago, your information could still be available for purchase on the Dark Web to fraudulently apply for UI benefits.

Should this happen, the first thing you should do is notify the TWC that someone has submitted an application claiming to be you. Immediately report this to the TWC UI identity theft portal at: 

https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/UiFraudSubmission/uifs/uifraud

This is the first step in getting this unfortunate situation corrected.

Note that individuals who report suspected ID theft to TWC do not always receive a call, email, or letter in response to the information provided. However, they can be assured that the imposter claim is handled as quickly as possible to lock the claim and to prevent payment. TWC will only contact you if additional information is needed regarding the claim.    

What to do if you’re being charged for overpayments on a fraudulent claim?

If you never made an unemployment claim, but get a notice of overpayment take the following steps: 

  • Report the fraud immediately using the TWC fraud portal. Note that individuals who report suspected ID theft to TWC do not always receive a call, email, or letter in response to the information provided. However, they can be assured that the imposter claim is handled as quickly as possible to lock the claim and to prevent payment. TWC will only contact you if additional information is needed regarding the claim.    
  • There is no need to respond to the overpayment letters or to file an appeal provided you did not apply for benefits. These letters will cease after TWC verifies the fraud and locks down the account.  
  • If you have applied for benefits or received them recently, but are still the victim of ID theft, TWC might need more information to verify that the overpayment is connected to the fraudulent account and not to you. Please contact TWC in one of the following ways: 

How was my identity stolen?

Perpetrators use identity information they stole from somewhere else before they file the claim with TWC. Identities are usually stolen through hacking and phishing schemes occurring outside of TWC. Major hacks of corporations, individual accounts, and increasing numbers of individuals putting sensitive identity data online have opened up millions for exposure. The Insurance Information Institute (III) has reported that the number of identity theft complaints in America doubled in 2020. 

How to help combat fraud

All Texans should take steps to secure their identity online by practicing internet security best practices. Treat your TWC account and all accounts like you would your bank account. The Texas Workforce Commission will investigate every unemployment benefit claim to confirm identity and to lock accounts that are fraudulent. 

If you think you have been the victim of identity theft, report it using the TWC fraud and identity theft portal at: https://apps.twc.state.tx.us/UiFraudSubmission/uifs/uifraud

Protecting Your Data on Social Media

Private information is being shared like never before. Social networking sites routinely expose full names, addresses, birthdates and other information valuable to scammers. Combined with information stolen from data breaches, cell phone hacking or “phishing” scams that expose social security numbers, criminals can impersonate you online. TWC reminds Texans to use extreme caution on social media amid this dramatic increase in identity theft.

What can you do to Protect your data?

Everyone should practice Internet security best practices to protect their data. What that means is keeping information that can be used to steal your identity private unless you are asked to provide it by a recognized TWC representative. If you’re reaching out for help, don’t post the information in a direct message or comment because once that information is available online, it becomes a target for scammers looking to steal identities. If we need this sensitive information from you, we will not ask for it through social media.

A good way to think of your personal information is like your bank account. You wouldn’t post that information on social media, right? Treat your personal information in the same way. When in doubt, don’t share it.

What to be on the lookout for

First, TWC reminds Texans to never give out social security numbers, account logins, bank information, payment or even addresses on any social media platform, even in direct messages to TWC. TWC never conducts business on social media, so if anyone claiming to represent the agency contacts you asking for private information, do not respond. This is a good sign you have been targeted by someone trying to steal your identity. 

Second, only conduct business through TWC’s official unemployment portal or phone number. Over the last few months, multiple fake TWC pages have been set up by scammers hoping to steal private information from people applying for unemployment benefits. Unless you can reach the page through official TWC channels, don’t trust it.

How to report fraud

If you think someone has stolen your identity and filed a false claim, follow the steps here! The Texas Workforce Commission investigates every unemployment benefit claim to confirm identity and quickly locks accounts that are fraudulent. With your help, we can stop fraud in its tracks.

Watch out for Identity Theft

Texas, like other states, is seeing large numbers of fraudulent applications due to identity theft. TWC wants to remind all Texans to protect their identities online so they don’t get swept up in the wave of unemployment insurance fraud applications. 

How is identity being stolen? 

TWC systems have not been breached or hacked which means data is being stolen through other channels. Sometimes the means to steal an identity can be found in information posted on social media or material found on web sites. All Texans should take steps to secure their identity online by practicing internet security best practices. Treat your TWC account and all accounts like you would your bank account. 

How much fraud is there really? 

Identities are being stolen at record rates, some in breaches of health insurance companies, hotels and in one of the largest cases, a consumer credit reporting agency. The number of identity theft complaints in America doubled in 2020. With the high-profile increase in unemployment claims due to COVID-19, fraudsters are seeking to capitalize.  

Who is responsible for the increase in stolen identities 

TWC systems have not been breached or hacked which means identity theft is occurring outside the system. A growing cybercrime community known as the Dark Web traffics in these stolen identities, passing them from hackers to fraudsters seeking to monetize your information. Even the hackers are being hacked. Government benefits programs are now the largest single target for these thieves, above even credit cards.  

How do I find out if someone filed unemployment under my name? 

If you receive a letter stating that you have applied for benefits, which you have not applied for, it is very likely you are the victim of identity theft.  

What do I do if someone filed for unemployment under my name? 

If you think someone has stolen your identity and filed a false claim, report it immediately on the TWC fraud portal. After that, follow these important steps:  

  1. Contact the police department in the city in which you reside and get an incident report and number.   
  1. Consult the Federal Trade Commission website to report the ID theft.  
  1. Contact one of the three credit reporting agencies listed below (you only have to call one because the law requires them to contact the other two) and ask that a free fraud alert be placed on your credit report. If needed, you can also ask to have your credit account frozen or request a free credit report.  
  • Equifax – 800-349-9960  
  • Experian – 888-397-3742  
  • TransUnion – 888-909-8872  
  1. If your bank or credit union account was compromised, contact the fraud department of each institution. Report the identity theft and, if needed, ask them to close or freeze the compromised account. If your ATM card was compromised, contact your financial institution and request a new card.  
  1. If unauthorized charges appear on your legitimate credit cards, cancel the cards and request replacement cards with new account numbers. If an authorized card was opened using your ID, cancel the cards and close the accounts.  
  1. Contact the Social Security Administration office in one of the following ways:  
  • Visit www.ssa.gov and type “identity theft” in the search box  
  • Call: 800-269-0271  
  • Fax: 410-597-0118  
  • Social Security Fraud Hotline  

PO Box 17785  

Baltimore, MD 21235  

What happens after I report fraud?  

The Texas Workforce Commission investigates every unemployment benefit claim to confirm identity and quickly locks accounts that are fraudulent.  Fraud tips are investigated immediately but bear in mind you may not hear back right away.  

With such a large increase in the volume of UI claims and corresponding fraud, TWC has prioritized investigation over notification, in order to stop fraud in its tracks and protect the integrity of the UI trust fund. Nonetheless, TWC is hiring additional agents to improve response times. For more information about identity theft fraud, see TWC’s fraud web page.   

Health Care Provisions of the American Rescue Plan

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), which was recently signed into law, is the legislation that extended unemployment insurance benefits until September. But what you may not know is that it also provides for additional financial assistance with health coverage for people who have lost their jobs.  Although TWC does not administer these programs, our goal is to provide information and resources to assist unemployment insurance claimants in Texas. 

So what are these programs?

COBRA for newly-unemployed workers

The first provision is related to COBRA which lets people who have job-based health insurance retain it for up to 18 months after they lose their job. Under the bill, individuals who either lost hours from their job or lost their jobs entirely, and who are qualified for continuation coverage, will have their premiums treated as fully paid for a period of time ending September 30, 2021.

Employers will then get access to a tax credit to make up for the unpaid premiums. This will allow people to continue their health coverage without needing to contribute premiums as is usually the case with COBRA coverage. 

Marketplace Subsidies

The second provision is enhanced marketplace subsidies. The ARP increases the amount of subsidies and covers more people. For the first time ever, people with incomes above 400 percent of the poverty level will be eligible for these subsidies.

Affordable Care Act Tax Credits

The  third provision is related to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  The provision in the ARP provides premium tax credits to Americans who are receiving unemployment benefits at any time this year. 

The provision ensures that most people who receive at least one week of unemployment compensation at any time in 2021 will be able to obtain a Silver plan with $0 premiums.  For more information, claimants can visit healthcare.gov

UI claimants can visit the following websites for more information.