Pennsylvania becomes latest target of nationwide scam involving unemployment benefits

Kristen Johanson
May 26, 2020 - 6:47 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) Pennsylvania is the latest state to be swept into an unemployment scam, where authorities say fraudsters are using previously stolen identity information to bilk benefit payments. It’s now part of a federal investigation.

Fraudsters are using previously stolen identity to try and collect money from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is set up to help self-employed workers and independent contractors during the pandemic.

Pennsylvania Secretary for Labor and Industry Jerry Oleksiak says there has been no data breach.

“The bad guys are using personal information they obtained without permission from other sources of information and filed for PUA benefits and route those payments to their own bank accounts,” he explained. 

He says many may not even know their identities have been stolen until they get an unemployment check in the mail. Some never filed a claim.

But some who are enrolled in the PUA program have been impacted.

“In an effort to protect against fraudulent activity and to stop these fraudsters in their attacks, we are following the lead of other states and flagging payments from those suspect claims pending an investigation, but we cannot hold payments longer than a week,” Oleksiak said. 

Anyone getting benefits through the PUA program will get a check in the mail instead of through direct deposit or their debit card for the time being.

If you got a check or direct deposit but never signed up for unemployment, officials urge you to mail the funds back — keeping it is considered fraud.

“This was not a breach into our system, this has happened across the country, and that’s why we were paying attention to it,” Oleksiak added.

Related: Sign up for KYW Newsradio's daily newsletter for the latest on the coronavirus pandemic across the Philadelphia region.