A number of unemployment fraud cases have been reported in recent months in Blair and Bedford counties, as well as surrounding areas, state police say.
This is a problem that has not gone unnoticed by the Ministry of Labor and Industry, which said on Wednesday it had detected an escalation in attempts to steal unemployment benefits through increasingly aggressive schemes and sophisticated.
While an investigation is underway to determine the source of the attacks and the precise methods used to intercept legitimate payments, the department said multi-factor authentication will be added to the system. The two-step process adds an extra layer of protection.
Identity theft is a growing problem, state police said.
“This is unfortunately becoming an increasingly common problem, and it is a problem that is difficult to solve or to monitor” said Private Christopher Fox, information officer for State Police Troop G.
L&I secretary Jennifer Berrier said the department had seen a slight increase in fraud cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that unprecedented demand on the national unemployment benefit system has led individuals to breach warranties and take money through illegitimate claims.
“Fraud detection measures have revealed an increased level of sophistication in the most recent attacks against our system,” said Berrier.
According to Fox, residents of the area are not finding out who they are, and the benefits have been compromised until they make a claim on their own.
“These people are denied benefits, and they discover that it is because someone has stolen their identity” Fox said.
Additionally, many identity theft victims don’t realize what happened until they are denied a loan or mortgage, Fox said.
Fox said one of the best ways to prevent unemployment fraud, or any type of identity theft, is to monitor credit scores and reports.
Online programs and applications are available to monitor credit and instantly send an alert when a new account is opened. Fox noted that early intervention and “A strong trace of paper” could help void fraudulent claims.
“Always monitor your credit and make sure nothing goes wrong” Fox said. “If anything abnormal appears on a credit report, notify your local law enforcement immediately. “
Anyone who receives unsolicited unemployment documents or receives unsolicited benefits should contact the police and provide a copy of the police report to the Unemployment Benefit Office.
Employers who receive notice that a claim has been opened for a current employee who is actively working or for an unknown person should also contact the police.