Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud & Benefit Payment Notice
On May 26, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Office of Unemployment Compensation sent out a Notice of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claimed Filed to all applicants in the wake of its detection of recent COVID-19 unemployment scams, specifically concerning applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
The L&I Anti-Fraud Division alerted that scammers have attempted to use stolen personal information to fraudulently file for COVID-19 unemployment benefits and receive the associated Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) through electronic deposits to fake bank accounts.
It is important to note that the alert specified personal identifying information had been stolen from outside sources, and that no information from L&I databases was infringed. In his statement, L&I Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said, “We are working closely with other state and federal agencies, as well as law enforcement, to investigate these incidents. I want to assure everyone, particularly people who have submitted information to L&I through our unemployment compensation programs, that none of our programs or data have been breached.”
In response to the L&I Anti-Fraud Division’s request, the Department of Treasury will issue paper checks for all PUA-associated Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) claims, which involve the heavily publicized extra $600 per week payments. The checks will be mailed to the recipient’s on file home address. The department mentions that mail delivery times will vary across the state but generally should be expected anywhere from 3-5 business days later than the electronic deposit would arrive. These measures are intended to mitigate the risk of the unapproved opening of claims and unearned PUA benefits.
Scammers may be using stolen information such as names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth to fraudulently file for unemployment claims. The L&I Anti-Fraud Division is also urging Pennsylvanians to monitor their personal information and credit rating, as some might be unaware that their identities have been compromised. The Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation Website offers some tips on how to protect your identity via its Fraud & Identity Theft Page. Some of these important tips warn against giving out personal information over email or text message or following requests for payments or fees in order to file your unemployment compensation claim.
It is important to remember that checks should not be cashed for benefits for which you did not apply, as this may be considered fraud and repayment can be required. If you do receive PUA payments for which you did not apply for, the funds should be returned, and you are urged to ensure that your identity has not been compromised.
Unapplied for checks should be returned to:
Department of Treasury Comptroller’s Office
Att. Mark Accorsi
Room 113, Finance Building
Harrisburg, Pa 17120
Unapplied for electronic deposits should be returned to:
Department of Labor and Industry
651 Boas St, Room 500
Harrisburg, PA 17121
It is crucial to be vigilant about identity theft and PUA fraud, especially throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Identity theft, unemployment claims fraud, and unemployment tax fraud can all be reported through forms available on the Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation website.
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Article compiled by Rachel Keich.