Today, Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Acting Secretary Jennifer Berrier and Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (OAG) Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo urged Pennsylvanians to remain vigilant against fraud.
“With the availability of additional federal unemployment program funding, fraudsters are becoming bolder in their attempts to obtain and use Pennsylvanians’ personal information to steal this money,” said Berrier. “More than ever, each and every one of us must be on high alert and closely guard our personal information to stop these scammers.”
Fraudsters have been stepping up their efforts to gather Pennsylvanians’ personal information, including usernames, passwords, unemployment compensation Personal Identification Numbers (PINs), and Social Security numbers. The goal of these scammers is to create fraudulent unemployment program claims or log into existing claims and redirect unemployment benefits payments.
While many of these fraudulent claims are filed using information obtained in previous non-governmental data breaches, L&I has observed fraudsters trying to obtain personal and confidential information from Pennsylvanians through phishing or spoofing attempts.
The fraudsters are:
- Contacting intended victims by calling, texting, emailing or messaging via social media;
- Posing as L&I or other government entities or groups to “help” claimants with issues so they can gather their personal and confidential information; and/or
- Pretending to be unemployment claimants on Facebook or Twitter and offering to help legitimate claimants with their issues via phone or email, with the goal of stealing their personally identifiable information.
Pennsylvanians are reminded that L&I never contacts anyone and asks for their username, password, PIN or full Social Security number. Additionally, L&I does not communicate with claimants over social media and the only valid email addresses to contact Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Service Center are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
L&I has been working with multiple partners, including law enforcement, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, and the U.S. Attorneys office, to identify, prevent, and prosecute unemployment fraud. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has announced several rounds of arrests since last summer, with the most recent arrests occurring on January 26. OAG investigations into cases of suspected unemployment fraud are ongoing.
“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fraud is something that the Office of Attorney General, as well as our federal and local law enforcement partners, takes very seriously. Not only are millions of taxpayer dollars at stake, but every fraudulent claim disrupts and delays the process for the Pennsylvanians who desperately need these funds to survive during these difficult times,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Zarallo. “To date, the Office of Attorney General has arrested 29 people, which represents 6 individual fraud rings, and accounts for around $2.5 million in illegally acquired funds. Our office remains committed to investigating and prosecuting these crimes and bringing the perpetrators of this fraud to justice.”
Signs of Fraud
Any Pennsylvanian who has not applied for unemployment benefits is most likely a victim of fraud if they:
- Receive unrequested unemployment paperwork from L&I’s Office of Unemployment Compensation;
- Receive unemployment benefit payment(s) they did not apply for from the Pennsylvania Treasury; or
- Receive 1099G tax forms for 2020 indicating they were paid unemployment benefits.
If you are a victim of unemployment fraud – or know of someone who is participating in unemployment fraud – report it:
- 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 UC benefits, complete and submit the Identity Theft Form.
Victims of identity theft may also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission and start a recovery plan at https://www.identitytheft.gov/.
- Unemployment claims fraud – If you know of individuals who are collecting UC 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.
- PA Fraud Hotline– 1-800-692-7469
- File a police report with the municipality you resided in at the time the unemployment benefits in question were paid. A copy of the police report must be provided to the department as part of the investigation into your claim.