Department of Labor launches tool for unemployment fraud victims

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In this May 7, 2020, photo, the entrance to the Labor Department is seen near the Capitol in Washington. The record unemployment rate reflects a nation ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the economic devastation upending the presidential campaign and forcing President Donald Trump to overcome historic headwinds to win a second term. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON, DC (NEWS10) — The U.S. Department of Labor launched a new website Monday to help people better understand unemployment insurance identity theft, and how and where to report stolen benefits if you are a victim.

The department says the new website gives users important steps to help victims deal with issues that might come up due to previous identity theft and outlines steps to report the theft of unemployment benefits. In order to help victims, the department reportedly worked closely with other federal agencies and state workforce agencies to combine the necessary steps and resources.

Site developers reportedly recruited real victims of unemployment benefit theft to test the site and make sure its instructions were clear and simple to understand.

Since the pandemic began, the number of workers eligible for unemployment benefits has skyrocketed, causing significant stress on state systems. The department says state systems are under attack by organized criminal groups and others who are said to be using information stolen in previous data breaches in other systems to falsely collect benefits across multiple states.

“We understand that victims of unemployment insurance fraud are scared, confused and deeply frustrated,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Suzi LeVine. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to working with state workforce agencies and our federal and state partners across government to ensure these victims have access to the resources they need along with help to clearly guide them through this difficult situation and show them how to report fraud.”

The department says most fraud victims are unaware that thieves have filed claims or collected benefits in their names illegally. It’s not until a victim receives unexpected mail, like a payment, or a state-issued 1099-G tax form with mistakes or for benefits they did not get.

Victims must report the fraud to state workforce departments to launch an investigation and resolve the issue. The new site reportedly gives a government-verified directory with each state’s direct contact method(s) for reporting such fraud.

A Spanish translation of the website is also available.

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