Unemployment Compensation Fraud is a very serious matter. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) is committed to preventing, identifying, and blocking scams and is continuing its aggressive efforts to do so, including:
- Cross-matching data with other state agencies and across the country to detect fraud activity.
- Working with the U.S. Department of Labor to prevent and detect fraudulent activities related to UC.
They encourage Pennsylvanians to remain vigilant and to report fraud or any potential concerns of fraud to L&I. Cashing the checks or using directly deposited funds knowing that you have not applied for PUA or any other UC program may be deemed fraud, and repayment will be required.
Recognize and Avoid COVID-19 UC Scams
The scammers behind the PUA fraud appear to be using Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information to apply for and receive PUA benefits. In many situations, the victims are unaware that their personal information has been compromised.
The following are some warning signs of a possible COVID-19 scam:
- For workers – receiving any type of correspondence that you filed an unemployment claim when you did not file a claim for benefits.
- For employers – if you notice a claim has been filed for one or more of your employees who are still working or someone who has never worked for you.
In general, take these steps to protect yourself against unemployment scams:
- Never give out your personal information over email or text message.
- Don’t wire money, and always ignore the following requests:
- Communications relating to your UC benefits from someone asking for money;
- Someone who says they can help you file for your benefits for a fee; and
- Anyone claiming to work for L&I who says they need a fee to complete your application.
- Don’t open or respond to unsolicited emails or text messages.
- Never give out your personal information on websites or social media channels – especially those that claim they can help you apply for UC benefits. Third parties can’t apply for your benefits.
- Don’t trust or rely on UC info from unofficial websites – always visit uc.pa.gov for Pennsylvania unemployment program information.
- If you file a claim, save the following unemployment phone numbers to your phone, so you know you’re receiving a legitimate call from L&I:
- 888-313-7284 – Regular UC
- 855-284-8545 – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
L&I will ask you for some personal identification information, including the last four digits of your Social Security number if they call you, but they will not ask for your full SSN unless you call them.
How to Report Fraud:
Unemployment fraud has been running rampant since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the number of fraudulent claims continues to grow at an alarming pace. There are many consequences when a fraudulent unemployment claim is filed, including:
- 1099-G forms were sent to the victims of the fraud, creating a false tax burden
- Inability to file a legitimate unemployment claim
- Higher unemployment rates for the employer
- Billions of taxpayer dollars are given to fraudsters
Fortunately, there are several steps that your business and employees can take to curb its effectiveness. Just as with other types of fraud, it is important to remain vigilant and report it right away.
- Notify Pennsylvania’s Office of Unemployment Compensation of the fraud by calling 800-692-7469. Fraud victims can also report online at: https://www.uc.pa.gov/Pages/Report-Fraud-Here.aspx.
- Elect to receive employer notices of unemployment claims electronically through the SIDES E-Response system https://www.uc.pa.gov/employers-uc-services-uc-tax/sides/SIDES-E-Response-for-Small-Businesses/Pages/default.aspx.
- You will receive an email whenever there is a new claim for anyone that has recently worked for your business.
- If they are a current employee or otherwise aware that it is a fraudulent claim, make that obvious in your response by including an attached letter on company letterhead.
- If a claim is filed for a current employee, notify them that someone has filed an unemployment claim in their name. Advise them to report this to both the Office of Unemployment Compensation and their local law enforcement agency.
- Advise employees to enroll in a credit monitoring service, set up fraud alerts, and freeze their credit reports with Experian, Equifax, and Transunion to prevent unauthorized accounts from being opened with their social security numbers.
- A freeze will prevent lenders from doing a hard credit pull, which is required to open new credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc.
- Affected individuals should also be vigilant that no false tax returns or social security claims are filed in their names.
Fraud continues to cost taxpayers, individuals, and businesses infinitely every year. If you think your business may have internal or external fraud occurring, contact Brinker Simpson to see how we can help — 610.544.5900.