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Lawmakers: Identity theft spike in KS could be connected to KDOL data breach

Published: May. 10, 2021 at 4:14 PM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 4:15 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - According to new federal data, Kansas has the highest identity theft rate in the country. Eyewitness News learned that spike could relate to the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL).

Not only does Kansas have the highest increase in identity theft, when you look specifically at unemployment fraud, data shows the state had more unemployment fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) than California and New York combined. Now, Kansas lawmakers are connecting the spike to a possible data breach with KDOL.

The new data from the FTC shows nearly 40,000 Kansans reported unemployment fraud in 2020, a more than any other state.

“I was one of the victims myself having fallen employment on myself. As a matter of fact, just last week I found out that somebody opened up a checking and savings account in my name, with Wells Fargo,” said Kansas Rep. Stephen Owens, R-Hesston. “That is very concerning to me that that people’s identities are being stolen.”

The Legislative Post Council is investigating a possible breech with KDOL after FactFinder 12 found that social security numbers and other personal information was exposed on the department of labor’s website.

Now, Owens is pushing the state to protect Kansans’ identities.

“There are plenty of opportunities for the State Finance council for legislative leadership to ensure that people whose data has been breached has access to appropriate monitoring systems, and I fully 100 percent support having the state pay for that for, for this year and many years to come,” he said. “Because, as you have shown through the research you’ve done over this last year, how easy it was for people’s I.D.’s to be stolen from the Kansas Department of Labor.”

The National Identity Theft Resource Center offers steps you can take to protect yourself.

“We’re encouraging people to freeze their credit, because it does prevent a lot of other types of identity theft, and it’s one of the most robust proactive protection steps that you can take, so please by all means, freeze your credit, it’s free,” the center said. “You can even do it for your kids and lock down that data so that the thieves can open new lines of credit in your name.”

KDOL said not all identity theft is connected to unemployment fraud, but the FTC said it accounts for nearly 90 percnt of the identity theft in Kansas.

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