Dept. of Labor cancels thousands of suspected fraudulent claims for fourth week

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 8:45am

    AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Labor is continuing to work with its state and federal law enforcement partners to investigate criminal unemployment imposter fraud, per a news release.

    During the week ending June 20, the Maine Department of Labor cancelled about 1,900 initial claims and 4,300 weekly certifications suspected of being fraudulent.

    This means that between week ending May 30 through week ending June 20, the Department has cancelled roughly 23,900 initial claims and 41,000 weekly certifications that were determined to be fraudulent.

    To date, the Department has received roughly 24,700 reports of unemployment imposter fraud, some of which are duplicates if both the employee and employer reported the fraud. The extent of potential unemployment imposter fraud remains under investigation.

    Unemployment imposter fraud is when a person’s Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is stolen from outside the unemployment system and used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits.

    Maine is one of many U.S. states, according to the release, working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate and prevent it.

    Based on the experience of other states, the amount lost to fraud may be in the tens of millions, the release noted. 

    The U.S. Attorney's Office, Maine Department of Labor, Maine Attorney General’s Office, Maine IT, Maine State Police, Maine State Treasurer, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcements Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI are working together to investigate and stop the fraudulent unemployment claims. In Maine, the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General are spearheading the federal investigative effort.

    “In light of extensive identity theft and unemployment fraud being investigated across the country, the Maine Department of Labor is holding claims that are potentially fraudulent,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “We recognize that some legitimate claims are being held as part of this crucial effort. We are working as quickly as possible to separate the valid claims from claims filed by criminals. To date, we have reinstated about 9,700 claims to hardworking Mainers.”

    The Department and its partners are vigorously pursuing cases of unemployment imposter fraud. The investigation is ongoing, and new incidences of potential fraud are identified every day.

    Those whose claims were cancelled for suspected fraud or whose claim has been flagged for potential fraud (showing a 9/9/9999), must email the Maine Department of Labor at its secure email IDVerification.UC@maine.gov and provide scans or photos of TWO forms of identification, one of which must be a government issued photo ID, along with a clear and recent photo of themselves taken at the time of submission.

    Photo IDs could include driver’s license, passport and Military ID. 

    Non-photo documentation could include a recent utility bill that shows your name and residential address, Social Security card and birth certificate. 

    To expedite verifications, law enforcement officers from the Maine Department of Corrections are working with the department on a temporary basis to review identity documentation. A confirmation message should be received after submission.

    Documentation will be worked through in the order it is submitted to the Department. As claims are reviewed and determined to be valid, payments are released.

    The Department encourages anyone who believes that someone else has used their or their employee’s personal information to file a fraudulent unemployment application to notify the Department immediately using this form: maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft.