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Federal and state orgs warn against unemployment assistance scams

The theft of more than $44 million in federal funds meant for unemployed Pennsylvanians was thwarted by government agencies and banking institutions, the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania announced on Tuesday.

The money, intended for recently unemployed through the federal CARES Act, was traced to 4,000 fraudulent claims through a number of sources including federal and state law enforcement, Minneapolis-based US Bank and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

“Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds are intended to help Pennsylvanians who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus,” said U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Thieves who attempt to take these funds are taking advantage of others’ misfortune – ripping them off while also ripping off all taxpayers who fund the program.”

Many of the fraudulent claims originated from stolen identities and were found through reports from Pennsylvanian’s that received unemployment compensation they didn’t apply for, the U.S. The Attorney’s office wrote in a statement.

On Thursday, Jerry Oleksiak, secretary of the state Department of Labor & Industry, released a statement urging Pennsylvanians to remain vigilant of scams and any claims they haven’t applied for.

“These fraudsters are using personal information previously stolen from sources outside of commonwealth agencies to file for PUA benefits,” he said. “Many Pennsylvanians are not even aware their identities were stolen in the past until they receive correspondence or a debit card from our unemployment compensation office.”

Warning signs for a potential unemployment compensation benefits scam include:

• Receiving a check or direct deposit from the Pennsylvania Treasury Department or a ReliaCard. debit card issued by the US Bank when you have not applied for unemployment.
• Receiving correspondence about unemployment assistance you did not apply for.
• Someone you do not know tells you their unemployment benefits were mistakenly mailed to you.
• Someone asks you to use your bank account to deposit their unemployment assistance or asks for your personal information for you to receive your unemployment assistance.
• Someone offers to help you file for unemployment benefits for a fee.
• Someone claims to be from the government and asks for a fee or personal information to complete your application.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at ipashakis@bridgetowermedia.com.

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