Harrisburg, PA – The Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) has detected an escalation in fraudsters' attempts to steal unemployment compensation benefits through increasingly aggressive and sophisticated schemes. An examination is under way to determine the source of these attacks and the precise methods fraudsters are using to intercept legitimate UC payments.
"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, foreign and domestic fraudsters have been exploiting unprecedented demand on the nation's unemployment compensation systems that exist to protect hardworking Americans and their families during times of hardship," L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said. "Fraud-detection measures have revealed an increased level of sophistication in the most recent attacks on our system. Today, I am reaffirming our commitment to protecting Pennsylvanians' personal data, thwarting attempts to steal public money and working with law-enforcement agencies at every level to deter, catch and prosecute these bad actors."
"L&I takes seriously its responsibility to safeguard taxpayer dollars and individuals' personal data. We will continue these efforts aggressively and transparently," Secretary Berrier said.
In the early months of the pandemic, fraudsters initially targeted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, a special program created by the federal government to provide unemployment benefits to individuals who lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not typically eligible for UC. In most of these fraud attempts, fraudsters used stolen identities – obtained from data breaches outside state government – to submit illegitimate claims.
In more recent months, fraudsters have increasingly targeted traditional UC.
Pennsylvania's system for filing UC claims uses numerous fraud-detection measures, including virtual identity verification vendor ID.me to verify the identities of all new unemployment applicants. Multi-factor authentication, a two-step process that will add an extra layer of protection, will be added for claimants.
Since a new UC benefits system went live in June, the department has prevented more than $4.7 billion in state and federal dollars from being paid out to fraudsters.
Additionally, L&I works with the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force and other partners, including the FBI, Homeland Security and additional law enforcement agencies, the state treasury and the state attorney general's office to identify and block new fraud methods and stop fraud attempts.
L&I encourages individuals to remain vigilant about guarding their personal and confidential information and to monitor for signs that their information is being used fraudulently. Signs of fraud include:
- Individuals receiving unrequested unemployment paperwork from L&I's Office of Unemployment Compensation.
- Individuals receiving unemployment benefit payments they did not apply for from the Pennsylvania Treasury.
- Employers receiving notice that a claim has been opened for a current employee who is actively working, or an unknown person.
- Individuals can report suspected unemployment fraud by visiting the UC Benefits Website and clicking "Report Fraud" at the bottom of the page to complete and submit the Identity Theft Form. Do not log in.
- Employers should indicate the claim is fraudulent in their response to the Notice of Claim Filed.
- To report identity theft fraud related to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, please click here.
To report fraud by phone, call the PA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-692-7469.
L&I recommends that individuals who suspect they are the victims of identity theft to file a police report with local law enforcement and provide a copy of the police report to the Office of Unemployment Compensation.
The U.S. Department of Labor recommends that victims of identity theft should also report their information to the National Center for Disaster Fraud. Victims should also consider starting a recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission.
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