According to NBC4 News, Pam Henry, of Bowie, MD, was one of many who are a part of the unemployment scheme.
Henry has been working from home since the pandemic as an engineer for the past 40 years. She has never had a problem in this line of work. She has been very fortunate until she received a call from her HR Department. They informed her there was an unemployment claim filed in her name. “It was a little scary,” said Henry.
She thought she could fix this with a quick phone call to the Maryland Department of Labor, but after calling 1-2 times in a week, she received no response from the department. She then received a letter confirming her claim was processed.
“I was frightened because first of all, I didn’t deserve it,” said Henry.
When Henry didn’t hear back from the Fraud Department, she decided to call lawmakers, police and filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Then I received a phone call from the Maryland Department of Labor as a result of my federal complaint.”
She learned no money had been paid out in her name and her private information was removed from the false claim.
Unemployment fraud has overwhelmed many states nationwide. In VA, $50 million was paid out in fraudulent unemployment claims. DC and MD had no comment as to how much they paid out.
“These moneys that are being paid out fraudulently are taxpayers’ dollars and so the public is footing the bill for this,” said William Walton, who works with the Virginia Employment Commission.
Pre-pandemic, the Virginia Employment Commission tells NBC4, its fraud unit had six investigators now today they have 22 and they’re still recruiting.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to track down these fraudsters and recover as much of that money as we can,” said Walton.
As Virginia tries to catch these scammers, they learned of a new scheme. Scammers are now hacking into existing accounts of those who are receiving unemployment benefits and changing their bank information. This is a new scheme the Virginia Employment Commission is looking into.
“I was receiving partial unemployment until November of 2020. That’s when I said ok something’s not right,” said Rachel Cole of Woodbridge, VA.
Cole called the Virginia Employment Commission to ask why she stopped receiving her benefits. They told her she changed her account information, but Cole swiftly told them she hadn’t. Cole then filmed a claim with the Fraud Unit but is still awaiting a response.
“It’s ridiculous. No one should have to do this or go through this at all,” said Cole.
Although the Fraud Unit has additional workers to help resolve these issues, Walton says these things take time.
“It may not be immediate, but we are working these cases as quickly as we can,” said Walton.
For people who have been a victim of unemployment insurance fraud, they can visit the U.S. Department of Labor to help them file their claims. Click here for more details: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20210322-0
They can also visit the NBC Washington app and search consumers.