Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins is warning of a scam targeting state unemployment insurance programs.
The scam, which is currently under investigation by multiple federal and state agencies, involves criminals using stolen personal information to file fraudulent claims with state unemployment systems. One Maine resident reported that he applied for unemployment insurance after getting laid off, only to discover that unemployment insurance payments were already being collected in his name. Similarly, a Maine business reported that multiple employees, none of whom had filed for unemployment insurance, have had their Social Security numbers (SSNs) used to collect payments from the Maine Department of Labor. The company learned of the fraud after receiving calls from the Maine Department of Labor and other state employment systems asking for verification of employment status.
As with other types of tax and benefit schemes, the Secret Service believes this scam relies on a network of intermediaries – including unwitting victims of other scams perpetrated by the same criminals – to help transfer the money to the scammers. Individuals should be wary of any unsolicited contacts asking them to open a bank account in their own name (or in the name of a company they form) and to “process” or “transfer” funds received via a wire transfer, ACH, mail, money service businesses, or gift cards. They should also be suspicious of unsolicited calls, texts, or emails asking them to reveal any personally identifiable information, such as their SSN or date of birth.
“At a time when millions of Americans are experiencing job losses and state and local governments are facing dramatic revenue losses, it is unconscionable that these criminals would steal much-needed funds from state unemployment programs” said Senator Collins. “I urge the public to remain on alert for this and other COVID-19-related scams and to report these scams to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.”
If you believe you have been a victim of unemployment insurance fraud, notify the Maine Department of Labor immediately at https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft and visit https://www.identitytheft.govto report the identity theft and take steps to safeguard your identity.
This fraud is the latest in a series of coronavirus-related scams where criminals are seeking to take advantage of the global crisis for their own gain. There have also been reports of criminals seeking to trick or scare consumers into sharing personally identifiable information in exchange for a stimulus payment, making a donation to a fake charity, or paying a fee to receive a non-existent COVID-19 vaccine.
The Aging Committee has held 25 hearings in the past seven years to examine scams affecting older Americans and releases an annual Fraud Book outlining the top 10 scams reported to the Committee’s Fraud Hotline.