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.

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.

Combatting Fraud: Protecting Texans in the Era of COVID-19

When unemployment claims spike, fraudsters strike. How TWC protects you.

Unemployment insurance fraud is a serious problem that can potentially delay out-of-work Texans from getting the benefits they need and betray the taxpayers of Texas. Fortunately, 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.

Historically, when a high-profile event causes mass unemployment in Texas, nefarious individuals see an opportunity to try to defraud the taxpayers. Most commonly, this fraud takes the form of identity theft. Identity theft occurs when nefarious actors steal someone’s identity in order to gain access to the victim’s unemployment benefits payments.

TWC identifies this kind of fraud in one of two ways: through its own internal systems monitoring and tips from employees or employers about suspicious activity. When this fraud is discovered, TWC locks down the account to stop money from going out.

How often does it happen?

Generally, fraud numbers are less than 1 percent of total claims. In fiscal year 2017, TWC identified and locked 2,023 claims for fraud concerns. In 2018, with the record-breaking number of disaster unemployment claims from Hurricane Harvey, TWC found and locked 7,973 claims.

This year, with the massive increase in COVID-19 claims, TWC has identified and locked nearly 12,500 claims. But this is still only 0.2 percent of the 5.8 million claims Texas has seen this year.

How does identity theft occur?

In almost every case, identities are stolen somewhere outside of TWC. That is why it is important that everyone protect their private information and not recycle passwords.

What can you do when you suspect you’re a victim of fraud?

Contact TWC immediately at our Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline 800-252-3642, or through our online fraud submission portal here. Bear in mind, though fraud tips are investigated immediately, 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

What can you do if your account is locked incorrectly?

Because TWC takes fraud cases seriously, occasionally we block legitimate claims out of abundance of caution and send a contact request to verify your information. If your account is blocked, you can also use the same fraud web link and phone number above to contact us. Verifying information can be submitted through the portal, and once we have established that the claimant is indeed not the victim of identity theft, the fraud block is removed so they can access their benefits.

Other fraud prevention tips:

You can help us prevent fraud and protect your identity. If you are contacted about your benefits, remember that a TWC specialist will NEVER ask for your:

  • Credit card
  • Full bank account number
  • Fee payment

If someone asks for that information, you are encountering fraud. Report fraud using the link above.

Unemployment insurance is a contract between Texas and the workers of the Lone Star State. We can all play a part in protecting that promise by taking proactive steps to stop fraud in its tracks to ensure that the people of Texas can continue to get the benefits they need.

The TWC Appeals Process

After applying for Unemployment Insurance benefits, your application will be reviewed and a determination regarding your eligibility will be decided. You will then be sent a Determination Notice. If something on the notice is incorrect, or you don’t agree with the outcome,  you may appeal.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is written notice that you disagree with a TWC decision and you want your case decided through the appeals process. You must appeal in writing within 14 calendar days from the date that we mail you the Determination Notice. The date mailed is located on the top of the Determination Notice form, and the last day you can file an appeal is at the bottom of the form. There are three ways to file an appeal:

  • Online
  • By Mail                                         
    • Appeal Tribunal                                                     
      Texas Workforce Commission
      101 E 15th St, Rm 410
      Austin, TX 78778-0001
  • By Fax 
    • 512-475-1135

What should I know before I file an appeal?

While you can submit an appeal by mail or fax, we recommend filing online through the TWC Unemployment Benefit Services (UBS) system because you will immediately receive confirmation that the appeal was filed. While you wait for a response on your appeal, continue to submit timely payment requests every two weeks. If you win the appeal, this will speed up the process for receiving any missed or owed payments. Please note that filing the same appeal multiple times will only slow the process down for you and others.

How long will the appeal process take?  

Currently, the average timeframe to process an appeal is 45-60 days which can change depending on workload. However, some appeals may be shorter, and some may take longer based on the complexity of the appeal or the number of appeals awaiting review.  

Is there any way to get my appeal reviewed faster?

To be fair to all Texans, all appeals are reviewed in the order they are received. We know a quick determination is important to you, so we are continually looking for ways to speed up the process. TWC has more than doubled appeals staff in response to the pandemic and continues to increase that staffing.