L&I reports escalation in unemployment compensation fraud

Regional News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Officials are urging the public to remain vigilant as there has been an escalation in fraudsters attempting to steal unemployment compensation benefits.

According to the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I), these fraudsters are using increasingly aggressive and sophisticated schemes. An examination is underway to determine the source of these attacks and the exact 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.”

Berrier added that she is reaffirming the L&I’s 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 fraudsters.

Early on in the pandemic, the L&I said fraudsters targeted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was created by the federal government to provide unemployment benefits to those who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not typically eligible for UC. In most of the fraud attempts, fraudsters used stolen identities obtained from data breathes outside state government.

However, in recent months, fraudsters targeted traditional UC.

Since June, the L&I reportedly managed to prevent more than $4.7 billion in state and federal dollars from being paid out to fraudsters.

In collaboration with the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force, the FBI, Homeland Security, law enforcement agencies, state treasury and the state’s attorney general’s office, the L&I is looking to identify and block these new fraud methods.

In the meantime, the L&I is encouraging 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 may 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

To report fraud, you can head to the UC Benefits website and click “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.

Additionally, fraud related to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program can be reported online at the L&I’s website by clicking here.

Fraud may be reported by phone via the PA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-692-7469.

The L&I recommends that those who suspect they are victims of identity theft file a police report with local law enforcement and provide a copy of the police report to the Office of Unemployment Compensation.

Furthermore, identity theft victims should report their information to the National Center for Disaster Fraud as well as consider starting a recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission.

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