For third time, Maine Labor cancels thousands of suspected fraudulent unemployment claims

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 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, a press release stated.

    During the week ending June 13, the Maine Department of Labor cancelled about 3,500 initial claims and 8,400 weekly certifications suspected of being fraudulent.

    To date, the Department has received over 21,400 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 working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate and prevent it, the release noted.

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

    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.

    The Department announced last week that some claims were flagged for potential fraud, and that those claimants would need to submit ID verification documents to the department, to be reviewed by law enforcement officers.

    “Since last week, we have doubled the number of law enforcement officers working with us to a total of 30,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said. “We regret that some people with legitimate claims must take this extra step to receive their benefits, but it is necessary to do this verification in order to ensure that criminals stealing innocent people’s personal information are not receiving money meant for the people of Maine.”

    To date, the department has received close to 13,000 emails with supporting documentation to prove an individual’s identity. Many are duplicates from claimants sending in verification multiple times. The Department requests that anyone trying to resolve a claim only submit their documentation once, as multiple submissions could cause further delays.

    To date, almost 7,300 claims have been verified and reinstated. By the end of the week, the Department expects to complete the verification of emails sent in so far, thanks to the partnership with the Department of Corrections. Moving forward, there will need to be continued maintenance as new potentially fraudulent claims are identified and documentation will need to be verified.

    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.

    The Department believes some legitimate claims are being flagged as potentially fraudulent, through no fault of the claimant. The Department has created a secure process for people who believe their claim was cancelled or held for review incorrectly to provide proof of ID to reinstate their claims.

    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 photo of themselves taken at the time of submission.

    Photo IDs could include driver’s license, passport or military ID. 

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