AUGUSTA — For the week ending October 17, the Maine Department of Labor recorded about 1,300 initial claims filed for state unemployment insurance, and 500 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
This represents almost 1,600 individuals filing an initial claim or reopening their unemployment claim.
About 15,600 weekly certifications, or continued claims, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 14,900 weekly certifications filed under PUA. In addition, about 13,800 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 700 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program. Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.
Between March 15 and October 17, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.6 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.
The Department has handled approximately 193,400 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 94,900 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.6 million weekly certifications filed.
The Maine Department of Labor continues its careful review of all claims as it investigates unemployment imposter fraud.
During the week ending October 17, the Department cancelled about 2,900 initial claims and 22 weekly certifications that were determined to be fraudulent.
Unemployment imposter fraud is when a person's Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is stolen and used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits. Maine is one of many U.S. states working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate and prevent it.
The Maine Department of Labor is also warning unemployment claimants and adding extra security measures to protect beneficiaries from fraudulent email "phishing" scams” in which bad actors steal usernames and passwords, use them to log into unemployment accounts, and change the payment information.
The Department was notified by the U.S. Department of Labor of scams happening across the country and is taking proactive action to review and prevent impact on Maine claimants. The Department has also received reports of phishing attempts in Maine.
Some phishing attempts mimicked the Maine Department of Labor and provided a link to reset a password.
The Department will never send a password reset email that wasn't requested by the individual. If someone did not request a reset and receives one of these emails, they should immediately delete the email and not respond.
Claimants log-in information could also be potentially obtained by criminals if someone uses the same log-in information for multiple websites and that log-in information is compromised. The Department strongly recommends that claimants use a password that is unique to their unemployment account and is not used for anything else.
The Department continues to evolve its fraud prevention techniques and is adding extra authentication technology to the ReEmployME system. The Department is temporarily holding several hundred claims while awaiting additional verification from the individuals. Individuals whose claims are on hold will be notified by email to call 1-800-593-7660 for further guidance.
What unemployment claimants should do to protect themselves:
Before filing their next weekly certification, they should go to Benefits Maintenance > Payment Options to verify their current payment information and update as needed.
Click on the link in Benefits Maintenance to verify their email address. This will generate an email with instructions on how to complete the process.
After verifying their email, the Department recommends changing their password to one that is not being used in any other online system. They will need to verify their email account before creating a new password by hitting forgot password on the log-in page. This will also generate an email within which they will need to click on a link. Passwords should not be shared with anyone.
Unsolicited emails about resetting passwords should be immediately deleted.
If unemployment benefit payments for prior weeks filed appear to have been redirected to a bank account that is not theirs, they should contact the Department.
The U.S. Department of Justice has put out an Unemployment Insurance Consumer Fraud Protection Guide with information on unemployment fraud and what to do if you believe your information has been used to file a fraudulent claim.
The Department encourages anyone who believes that someone else has used their or their employees personal information to file a fraudulent unemployment application to notify the Department immediately using this form: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/