U.S. DOL launches new website to assist UI fraud victims

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – The U.S. Department of Labor has launched a new website to help victims of unemployment identity theft.

The agency unveiled the new website (en español) Monday to educate the public about the growing problem of unemployment identity theft and provide reporting guidance for citizens in every state. Kentucky residents who wish to report UI identity theft are advised to complete the form found on the Kentucky Career Center website. 

Amy Cubbage, general counsel for Gov. Andy Beshear, said fraud related to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is at epidemic levels across the country. Like workforce agencies in other states, the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance has seen the number of fraudulent claims skyrocket in recent months.

“We have put new measures in place to try to sort through those claims so that we are not fully overwhelmed and we can work on the claims of actual, honest-to-goodness Kentuckians who need their benefits,” Ms. Cubbage said.

State unemployment agencies nationwide have seen a dramatic uptick in the number of fraudulent claims as Congress continued appropriating additional funds to assist struggling workers affected by the pandemic.

Ms. Cubbage stated during the governor’s press conference March 4 that OUI was unable to verify the identity of approximately 72 percent of the 60,000 pending UI claims in January and February. She also said officials at the time believed half of the claims filed during those months were fraudulent.

The department of labor attributes much of the widespread surge on organized criminal factions who acquire stolen identities from previous, unrelated data breaches on the Internet. Those perpetrators then use that information to file claims on victims in multiple states and try to collect the benefits.

Many people are unaware they have been victimized until they receive a notice in the mail, a payment for benefits for which they did not apply, or an erroneous 1099-G tax form. In all cases, victims must report those matters to state UI agencies to stop any benefits that may have been paid on those claims and kick-start investigations.

Aside from launching the fraud form weeks ago that makes it easier for victims to report UI fraud and identity theft, the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance has recently taken additional steps to stop fraudulent claims and thwart criminals who attempt to illegally obtain unemployment benefits:

  • The agency places automatic stops on all Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims that originate outside of Kentucky until the identity of those claimants can be verified.
  • Agency officials debuted a new UI website portal last week that provides a better end-user experience while offering an additional layer of security to help keep UI accounts safe.
  • Next week, the agency is expected to deploy another I.D. validation tool, ID.me, to be used in tandem with the identity verification application already in use.

The agency is also working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement

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