New York Department of Labor hit with unemployment scams

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Credit unions should be aware that Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday warned about perpetrators using individuals’ personal information to file fraudulent unemployment benefits with the New York State Department of Labor.

Incidents of scammers with access to detailed databases with personally identifiable information have been reported, with scammers seeking out cooperation from “mules” who are used as intermediaries for filing claims online seeking benefits, James warned. She said the scammers are exploiting the avalanche of legitimate claims that have hit the Department of Labor due to the COVID-19 crisis.

As previously reported, scammers posing as unemployed, and in many instances, out-of-state workers, have been using the names of people with stolen identities to steal unemployment benefits, leading New York credit unions — already dealing with the difficulties of the pandemic — to take a closer look at incoming out-of-state unemployment benefits being deposited in members’ accounts.

“In light of new reports that the New York State Department of Labor has received fraudulent unemployment claims, credit unions, already on the lookout for fraudulent out-of-state unemployment benefit deposits, should continue to employ vigilant practices as they process the millions of unemployment checks that are currently pouring into credit unions — including those from the New York State Department of Labor,” said Sarah Hodgens, the New York Credit Union Association’s director of compliance.

While credit unions continue to monitor unemployment benefit deposits to member accounts, the public is also encouraged to be aware if they receive anything from the state Department of Labor that they were not expecting.

The FBI in Buffalo warned residents about state Department of Labor unemployment benefit scams, and in a June 18 Twitter post, tweeted: “ALERT: Have you received a letter or debit card from the NYS Department of Labor regarding an unemployment insurance monetary benefit that you did NOT apply for? Someone may be using your identity in a fraud scheme.”

While the Department of Labor is reportedly developing a comprehensive set of instructions that it will make public for those who may be impacted by unemployment benefits fraud, Republican Assemblyman Stephen Hawley of Batavia (District 139) issued a statement on June 22 encouraging citizens to stay vigilant, monitor their mail and should they notice anything suspicious coming from the Department of Labor, particularly when they have not claimed unemployment, to report it.

James encourages victims of unemployment benefits fraud to report any incidents to their employer and the Department of Labor or the attorney general’s office. James’ press release can be accessed on the attorney general’s website.

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