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Posted on October 28, 2020
State officials and Massachusetts employers continue to deal with a surge of fraudulent unemployment insurance claims generated as part of a national scheme using stolen personal information to attempt to access jobless benefits.
Criminal enterprises with access to stolen personal information from prior national data breaches have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by attempting to file large numbers of unemployment benefit claims through the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) system.
DUA revealed in July that 58,000 fraudulent claims had been detected, preventing the loss of $158 million. At the time, the Department of Labor said that it was working with the state and federal law enforcement to investigate the fraud and hired a private accounting firm to perform a forensic audit.
A recent investigation by Boston News 25 found evidence that fake unemployment claims are on the rise once again as scammers appear to be targeting public employees. The station reviewed police logs in surrounding towns and found reports of unemployment fraud in 23 communities in the greater Boston area.
“I think there is a second wave,” Dan Lohrmann, a cybersecurity expert, told Boston News 25. “Certainly, at the end of September and early October, we seem to be getting worse in some states.”
AIM has also continued to receive reports from member companies throughout the fall about fraudulent unemployment claims. Companies report in some cases that employees have been unaware that a fraudulent claim has been filed in their names and are thus unable to bring the scam to the attention of their employers.
“Companies need to review all unemployment claims carefully because failure to respond in a timely manner means the employer loses the right to challenge the claim,” said Vasundhra Sangar, Associate Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
Sangar suggests that employees and employers work together to address the scam by reviewing a set of online identity fraud tools developed by DUA.
Meanwhile, state officials are providing guidance to employers on how each of the following situations where there is a questionable claim should be handled.
If an employer has received a “Confirmation of Employment” letter:
If an employer has received a “Lack of Work” letter for an employee who either has never worked for your company or is employed by your company without any break in service for the past year:
If the employer or employee is responding to a “Fact Finding Letter”
If an employer has received a “Monetary Determination” with which they disagree:
The employer should encourage the employee to file a fraud report and follow the guidance at: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/report-unemployment-benefits-fraud.
If an employer is protesting a claim a result of a “Benefit Charge Statement” they are in disagreement with: