DLT: ‘Huge uptick’ in fraudulent unemployment claims
If it seems like a lot of people you know have gotten a fraudulent unemployment claim in the mail, you're not imagining it.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – If it seems like a lot of people you know have gotten a fraudulent unemployment claim in the mail, you’re not imagining it. The Rhode Island Department of Labor and training says they’ve seen a huge uptick in fraud since January.
During the pandemic, the DLT has paid out about $23 million dollars in fraudulent unemployment claims.
It’s less than one percent of the total amount paid out to Rhode Islanders, but the on-going issue has legislators concerned.
“We expect that folks are still going to be out of work for some time longer. The fraud continues to increase. I’ve had it happen to myself,” said Chair of the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee Senator Louis DiPalma.
DLT Director Scott Jensen testified to the committee Monday night that things that made it easier for people to file claims during the pandemic, like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and the extra money in weekly benefits, attracted the fraud.
“Those richer benefits really make a tempting target to fraudsters,” explained Jensen.
In just the last few weeks, Rhode Islanders have been posting all over social media that they’ve received letters from the DLT that someone opened a claim in their name.
“Our records show that you’ve earned enough to apply for unemployment benefits,” read Donald Vanasse of Coventry from his letter. “It tells everything about my employment.”
“It said that I stopped working here May 9, 2020, which is not true, I still work here,” recalled fraud victim Stephanie Morley while she was at work on Monday.
Jensen told the committee that the DLT now has a new automated system in place to recognize fraud quicker. It uses algorithms to better recognize patterns such as what banks the account is linked to, or what I.P. Address the claim is coming from.
“We’re seeing enormous claim levels right now, and a lot of those claims are fraud,” said Jensen.
Jensen said the most important things Rhode Islanders can do is report any claim opened in their name to the state police. They’ll be notified via a letter to their home and their place of work. He added that the new system has likely already recognized the fraud, but reporting it to the state police will confirm it.
“Those are really important pieces of evidence, because that is how we can verify that someone has been defrauded,” said Jensen.
The DLT has recouped about $3.5 million from the fraudulent claims, and has another insurance claim pending to recover more money.
If you received notification of a fraudulent claim made in your name, you can report it here.
Officials also recommend reporting the fraud here to ensure your information is protected.