An identity theft fraud ring is targeting unemployment compensation benefits programs across the nation, and Pennsylvanians are being urged to learn the warning signs.
The federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program is the primary target of this sophisticated scam and victims are urged to report instances of fraud to the Department of Labor and Industry and local police, a Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry press release states.
"These fraudsters are using personal information previously stolen from sources outside of commonwealth agencies to file for PUA benefits," Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak said in the release. "Many Pennsylvanians are not even aware their identities were stolen in the past until they receive correspondence or a debit card from our UC office."
Fraudulent activities to be aware of are:
• receiving a check or direct deposit from the Pa. Treasury Department or a ReliaCard debit card and you have not applied for unemployment benefits.
• receiving correspondence from Labor and Industry or Treasury about getting unemployment assistance for which you did not apply.
• a person comes to a resident's home claiming a check or card was mailed to the house by mistake.
• a person contacts a resident, in person or by email, to collect personal information because of supposed unemployment assistance eligibility.
• a resident is offered help to file for unemployment benefits for a fee.
• someone claims to be from Labor and Industry or another government agency or office and asks for a fee or personal information to assist in completion of a residents application.
• any employer that receives notice for a claim from an employee who has been working.
Fraud can be reported online for identity theft and unemployment claims at www.dlisecureweb.pa.gov, by calling 1-800-692-7469, or by filing a police report within a resident's municipality. A copy of the police report must be provided to the Office of Unemployment Compensation.
Anyone who has received benefits that were not applied for can return them three ways.
Paper checks can be returned to the Department of Treasury's Comptroller's Office, Attn: Mark Accorsi, Room 113, Finance Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Direct deposits can be returned to the Department of Labor and Industry, 651 Boas St., Room 500, Harrisburg, PA 17121.
ReliaCard debit cards from US Bank should not be activated and the card can be returned to the Department of Treasury Comptroller's Office, Attn. Mark Accorsi, Room 113, Finance Building, Harrisburg PA 17120.
A picture of the back or the number on the back of the card should be emailed to Pa. Treasury at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I urge everyone to remain vigilant, recognize the scam warning signs, and know what to do if you become a victim," Oleksiak said.