Retirement insights from a Colorado PERA perspective

Issues & Perspectives

Fighting Frauds and Scams

internet security

Picture what makes a typical fraud victim. Do you associate a certain age, occupation, socioeconomic status, or other common demographic marker with fraud? If so, you’re not alone. And you would also be mistaken.

Fraud, and in particular identity theft and cybercrime, is on the rise. And it’s affecting everyone.

  • About 4.8 million people filed identity theft and fraud reports in 2020. That represents a 45-percent jump in just one year.
  • Young people (ages 20 to 29) filed 44% of these reports.
  • Millions of people have lost money to scams – at least $3.3 billion in 2020. That’s more than twice the amount lost in 2019.
  • The median amount lost was greatest for those age 80 and above, at $1,300.
  • On a list of states with the most reports of identity thefts per capita, Colorado ranks 20th.

How PERA Helps Prevent Fraud

A report by the Insurance Information Institute states that criminals are “beginning to focus their attention on different financial accounts, such as loyalty and rewards programs and retirement accounts.”

From time to time, criminals target PERA members and their retirement accounts. PERA employs a number of tools to help thwart these attempts. While much of this work is conducted confidentially at PERA, some of the anti-fraud measures PERA takes are visible to members.

  • Those who have called PERA customer service know that customer service representatives ask questions to verify the identity of the person on the other line.
  • PERA has deployed two-factor authentication for members logging in to their online account. Alongside a strong password, this creates a barrier to anyone trying to access member accounts illegally.
  • Scammers can target PERA employers, too. PERA communicates regularly with employer contacts to share information that protects members.

Take Control of Your Information

In addition to the security defenses PERA employs, individuals can take the following steps to increase their protection:

  • Use strong passwords. This might seem common sense, but millions of people aren’t still following it. Try using a password generator from a trusted source.
  • Periodically check to see whether your information has been stolen on other websites. Scammers often use information they find in one scam to commit other, potentially more serious scams elsewhere.
  • If you want a trusted friend or family member to have access to your PERA account in the event you are incapacitated, you can. Complete and submit this form at any time. If this document is not on file, PERA representatives are unable to make changes or even share information with anyone, including spouses, other than the member.

Comments

  1. Shelley Greene says:

    There is something fishy happening regarding fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits. I retired from CDOT in 2005 but received a letter supposedly from the Division of Unemployment Insurance/Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

    It starts with “Your claim for unemployment benefits was received by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). I did not file a claim. Neither did my boyfriend, who currently still works for CDOT. Neither did several of his other co-workers but they also received a similar letter.

    We both went online and filled out a form to say that we did not file a claim. We both received a SECOND letter and had to go back online to fill another form out.

    Even after reporting these two letters, a US Bank ReliaCard Debit card arrived in the mail. The first question in the documentation says:
    “Why did I receive this ReliaCard?” and the answer said that it was automatically issued to every claimant who files for and is approved to receive unemployment benefits.

    Like I stated, I haven’t been employed since I retired in 2005; and it is pretty apparent that this is a scam directed at present and previous State of Colorado employees.

    Please have someone check into this scam because I believe it runs deep due to the number of people that I know who have received the same letter.

    • Tracy Vinci says:

      This exact scenario happened to me recently. I retired from Pueblo District 60 three years ago.

    • Irma Febus says:

      I am still employed with the school district and have also received the same letter where someone filed for unemployment under my name. I also received a debit card from ReliaCard. I did the same thing and filed fraud and so did my school district. It is scary as to how easy this can happen.

  2. G M SANTO says:

    PERA Board & Staff (PERA B.S.), along with the state legislature, is the biggest fraud facing retirees … oh, excuse me, I misspoke – stealing our COLA was outright theft!

    As for these comments concerning UI Fraud… I used to manage the day to day operations of Colorado’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Fraud Unit (that detected and deterred improper payments, fraud, and abuse), and can assure everyone that the worse has yet to be disclosed (at least Colorado along with the states of California and Washington admit they’ve been defrauded, or essentially hacked).

    Other states don’t even know what’s hit them and of course two other ill side effects are yet to surface for those affected,i.e., the additional income reported to the I.R.S. under your Social Security Number, plus your personal information now permanently on offer on the dark web.

    Pretty neat how state governments saved a bunch of money closing UI offices and laying-off staff so they could essentially go to a call center operation decades ago with not a single penny in the transformation dedicated to internet security that’s worth talking about. Thank the state of Colorado for essentially providing crooks everywhere your personal information (it makes PERA B.S. look innocuous by comparison)!

  3. jackie brinkman says:

    I lost a job because of Covid. Filed for unemployment and they said I had already filed. Not true. Tried calling the number they recommended. Of course no response or call back. Now what?

    • GM SANTO says:

      Like everyone else who’s fallen into CDLE’s UI blackhole, you send an email (followed by a certified letter to the Unemployment Office) explaining your situation to your elected state and federal level representatives and the offices of the governor, Lt. governor, and U.S. Secretary of Labor Walsh! Keep track of what weeks your trying to claim for and your work search; there’s a function on CDLE’s website for those who’ve had fraudulent claims filed under their SSNs; and maybe try reaching out to the media (but trust me the entire state department of labor is conducting a white wash).

      Hopefully you don’t need to ask for your elected representatives emails or postal addresses, if you’re a PERA member you should know them and have already contacted them about restoring/increasing your COLA (to state politicians) and supporting H.R. – 82, The Fairness in Social Security Act of 2021, repealing GPO & WEP (for your US Representatives & Senators).

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