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AG warns of COVID-19-related scams targeting Nevada residents

Updated October 23, 2020 - 8:38 pm

The state’s top law enforcement officer is warning of COVID-19-related scams that are targeting Nevada residents.

Aaron Ford, the state attorney general, said Thursday that his office has been educating consumers by hosting virtual town halls over the past several months on COVID-19 scams.

“Schemes aimed at stealing stimulus money were among the first wave of COVID-related scams we began to see,” Ford said. Now, the agency is handling an uptick in pandemic-related jobless fraud cases.

Though the state’s unemployment rate has tumbled from its peak of 33 percent in April, Ford said, “fraudsters continue to act and operate.”

“Sadly, many Nevadans may never know that false or fraudulent unemployment claims were filed in their name,” said Ford, adding that the state employment agency is working with law enforcement and banks to prevent fraudsters from accessing illegally gained money.

In April, Ford and the U.S. attorney’s office formed a task force that to crack down on COVID-19-related scams. Monica Moazez, a spokeswoman for Ford, said Thursday that the task force meets at least twice a month and holds additional calls and meetings as needed.

When the task force reviews unemployment insurance fraud complaints submitted by residents, businesses and other government agencies, those matters “are handled based on an assessment of which agency is best positioned to handle the matter based on their resources and areas of expertise,” Moazez said.

Last week, U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich’s office charged several Las Vegas residents, including a mail carrier, with unemployment insurance fraud. Trutanich said his office will prioritize unemployment insurance fraud cases.

The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation has grappled with the influx of fraudulent jobless benefits claims in recent months. DETR issued an alert this week of a new email phishing campaign that targets Nevada business owners.

Ford said that Nevadans should be wary of what they post on social media and never give out financial or personal information, as it can be used against them when criminals file fraudulent jobless benefits claims.

Even Ford was targeted by scammers: “I never shared mine (information), and it didn’t stop someone from filing an unemployment claim in my name from a firm I worked at five years ago.”

Ford said his office is urging Nevadans to freeze their credit with the three major credit bureaus. That helps prevent new accounts from being opened in a person’s name.

Contact Jonathan Ng at jng@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ByJonathanNg on Twitter.

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