HARRISBURG, PA — Officials in Pennsylvania say they’ve stopped $44 million in fraudulent unemployment claims filed during the pandemic.
United States Attorney William M. McSwain said the agency has collaborated with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry in stopping more than $44 million from reaching “criminals who attempted to steal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.”
Officials said they utilized sophisticated data analytics from the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General to identify the fraudulent claims.
Assisting was the U.S. Attorney’s Office-led Coronavirus Working Group of federal and state law enforcement agencies in Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provided through the federal CARES act were aimed to supplement the income of those laid off due to the coronavirus. Weekly payments of $600 per week were offered in addition to state unemployment
“The outstanding work of law enforcement saved over $28 million in PUA funds that would have been paid to fraudsters by check or direct deposit. In addition, US Bank administers the Pennsylvania debit card program used to make some PUA payments. US Bank applied analytics to identify an additional $16 million in fraudulent claims, and those funds will be returned to the Pennsylvania Department of Treasury,” the U.S. Attorney said in a news release.
McSwain said fraudsters stole identities of real Pennsylvanians to file their fake claims. “Law enforcement’s ability to track the fraud was greatly enhanced by Pennsylvanians who came forward and reported that they had received PUA funds but had never applied for them,” he said, adding anyone who receives state unemployment compensation funds that they did not apply for are probably victims of identity theft.
If you receive unemployment funds for which you did not apply, you should report it immediately to the Department of Labor & Industry and return the funds.
“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds are intended to help Pennsylvanians who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus,” said McSwain. “Thieves who attempt to take these funds are taking advantage of others’ misfortune – ripping them off while also ripping off all taxpayers who fund the program.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry offers the following warning signs and tips on how to report fraudulent funds:
Scam Warning Signs
Pennsylvanians should be aware of the following potentially fraudulent activities related to unemployment compensation benefits:
You have not applied for unemployment benefits but receive a check or direct deposit from the Pennsylvania Treasury Department (Treasury) or a ReliaCard debit card issued by US Bank.
You receive correspondence from L&I or Treasury about receiving unemployment assistance for which you did not apply.
Someone comes to your home that you do not know and tells you that their unemployment assistance check or debit card was mailed to you by mistake.
Someone asks you to use your bank account to deposit their unemployment assistance.
Someone, in person or electronically, tells you that you are entitled to unemployment assistance and requests your personal identifying information.
Someone offers to help you file for unemployment benefits for a fee.
Someone claims to be from L&I or another government agency or office and asks for a fee or personal information to complete your application for PUA or other benefits.
Any employer that receives notice that a claim has been filed for one or more of your employees who continued working and were not laid off or otherwise unemployed.
If any of these suspicious activities happen to you, do not assist or confront the fraudster.
Report fraudulent activity regarding Pennsylvania’s unemployment benefits:
Identity theft – if you suspect or know that someone is using your personal information such as your name, Social Security Number, or date of birth without your knowledge or consent to file for unemployment benefits, complete and submit the Identity Theft Form.
Unemployment claims fraud – if you know of individuals who are collecting unemployment benefits illegally, including people who are working and not reporting their wages for PA UC benefit purposes; or people who cannot work due to an illness, disability or incarceration, complete and submit the Unemployment Claims Fraud Form.
This article originally appeared on the Across Pennsylvania Patch