L&I is taking precautionary steps to protect claimants even though there has been no confirmed data breach
Harrisburg, PA – As part of the ongoing investigation of unusual account changes within Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation (UC) system, the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is taking the proactive step of offering free credit-monitoring services to all UC claimants even though there has been no confirmed data breach. Interested UC claimants will have the opportunity to register for these free credit-monitoring services in the near future and additional information about how to register is forthcoming.
Last week, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania publicly confirmed the existence of an FBI and Homeland Security investigation into what appears to be a highly sophisticated, coordinated effort to infiltrate various government systems. While L&I and the Office of Administration previously were requested to keep the matter confidential, given this recent public disclosure, the departments can now confirm that they have been coordinating with relevant federal partners on the investigation.
“The commonwealth continues to work with federal law enforcement and other agencies to investigate the sophisticated attacks on our system,” said Department of Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier. “While an investigation into the cause of disruptions within accounts is ongoing, we want to protect Pennsylvanians from further harm by proactively providing free credit monitoring. We remain committed to working with law enforcement to prevent criminals from stealing public money and to catch those behind it.”
L&I is encouraging any UC claimant who believes their account has experienced an unusual change to contact the department and follow the steps outlined below.
- Individuals can report suspected unemployment fraud by visiting the UC Benefits Website and clicking “Report Fraud” at the bottom of the page to complete and submit the Identity Theft Form. Do not log in.
- Employers should indicate the claim is fraudulent in their response to the Notice of Claim Filed.
- To report identity theft fraud related to the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, please click here.
To report fraud by phone, call the PA Fraud Hotline at 1-800-692-7469.
L&I recommends that individuals who suspect they are the victims of identity theft to file a police report with local law enforcement and provide a copy of the police report to the Office of Unemployment Compensation.
The U.S. Department of Labor recommends that victims of identity theft should also report their information to the National Center for Disaster Fraud. Victims should also consider starting a recovery plan with the Federal Trade Commission.
Criminals filing fraudulent claims have plagued states across the country since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when unemployment spiked suddenly to historic levels and caused unprecedented demand for UC benefits. Between March 2020 and December 2021, L&I received about 6.9 million claims for UC benefits, including special federal programs created in response to the pandemic. The department has responded to this unprecedented need by distributing about $48.5 billion in benefits to Pennsylvanians during that time.
In the early months of the pandemic, fraudsters initially targeted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, a special program created by the federal government to provide unemployment benefits to individuals who lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are not typically eligible for UC. In most of these fraud attempts, fraudsters used stolen identities – obtained from data breaches outside state government – to submit illegitimate claims. In more recent months, fraudsters have increasingly targeted traditional UC.
In Pennsylvania, L&I and OA have collaborated with law enforcement agencies across the state – from Harrisburg to Scranton to Philadelphia – to identify fraudsters and pursue prosecution. Since a new UC benefits system went live in June, L&I estimates the department has prevented more than $4.7 billion in state and federal dollars from being paid out to would-be fraudsters.
Pennsylvania’s system for filing UC claims uses numerous fraud-detection measures, including virtual identity verification vendor ID.me to verify the identities of all new unemployment applicants. Plans are under way to add multi-factor authentication, a two-step process that will add an extra layer of protection.
Additionally, L&I works with the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force and other partners, including the FBI, Homeland Security and additional law enforcement agencies, the state treasury and the state attorney general’s office to identify and block new fraud methods and stop fraud attempts.