ALBANY, N.Y. (WWTI) — On Thursday, the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) confirmed that it has identified over 1.1 million fraudulent unemployment benefit claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These efforts have prevented fraudsters from stealing over $12.3 billion in benefits. The DOL partners with law enforcement at the federal, state and local level, including the United States Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Secret Service and the FBI.
However, addressing this issue, the NYS DOL is continuing to warn New Yorkers; urging them to remain vigilant and only respond to official communications sent by the State. This alert follows widespread reports of fake communications such as phishing texts and emails seeking personal information.
“Our Office of Special Investigations is aggressively deploying advanced resources, from artificial intelligence to tools like ID me, to fight this fraud,” said New York State Department of Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “While our investigators are always one step ahead of stopping these criminals who are attempting to steal unemployment benefits that provide a lifeline to New Yorkers, we also need the public’s help in reporting anything that looks suspicious. We are urging them to refer to the tips in this release to protect themselves against fraud and to help us in our efforts to catch these fraudsters.”
According to the DOL, if New Yorkers receive official communication from the Department regarding unemployment benefits they did not apply for, they may be victims of fraud or identity theft.
Official communication can include emails, text messages, letters, debit cards and tax forms received in the mail. All suspected fraud should be immediately reported to the Department of Labor and suspected identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Here are the steps to report fraudulent activity:
- Report fraud on the DOL website and identity theft on the FTC website
- Once reported, individuals will receive a confirmation email, the DOL will only call if the Office of Special Investigations needs more information about the report
- The DOL will then immediately shut down the fraudulent claim and stop the payment of benefits
Here are ways to protect your personal information:
- Watch out for SMShing attempts where fraudsters use text messages to lure them into calling a fraudulent phone number, visiting websites or downloading malicious software content
- If New Yorkers get a text from a 10-digit phone number claiming to be NYS DOL it’s a scam and they should delete it immediately
- Texts from the NYS DOL will only come from 468311 or 22751
- Do not provide drivers license information to unknown contacts
- Always double-check the email address from all emails received
New Yorkers are reminded that even after reporting fraud, it is likely that individuals may receive additional mail, emails, text messages or debit cards after the report is filed.
The DOL stated that while fraudulent claims are stopped immediately, the communication, printing, and mailing process may continue for weeks or months later. Individuals do not need to send a report for each piece of communication received.