Jul. 22—SCHUYLKILL HAVEN — Twenty fraudulent unemployment compensation claims have been reported to the borough's police department since June 1.
Sergeant Glenn Firing said Wednesday the department has seen an increase in reports, consistent with recent widespread unemployment claim fraud across the country.
"The criminal is using the identity of the victim and applying for unemployment compensation," Firing said. "They have just enough information to attempt to file an unemployment claim."
Firing said the reports have mostly been filed by individuals who were notified of an unemployment claim they did not submit. For those who are not filing for employment, they are typically contacted by their employer that a claim was filed under their name.
It is then the individual's responsibility to file a report in their municipality.
"They should file the report as soon as they're aware of it," Firing said.
Firing said reports of fraudulent unemployment claims are likely widespread in the county, as one employer might receive numerous false claims, but the employees live in different municipalities.
"I think most departments have handled a higher volume of these calls right now," Firing said.
Every state has dealt with increased unemployment benefit fraud since the global pandemic began, state Department of Labor & Industry Press Secretary Sarah DeSantis wrote in an email.
While many types of fraud have existed throughout the history of unemployment compensation, DeSantis wrote, "the recent increase in fraud attempts are tied to prior leaks of personal and confidential data, like Social Security numbers, from sources outside of state government."
If a hacker or identity thief acquires someone's Social Security number, date of birth, address, employer or other personal information, they can file a fraudulent unemployment claim and set up payments to be sent to a bank account or address without the victim's knowledge.
According to the state Department of Labor & Industry's website, recent scams and phishing attempts include, "telling individuals they've won contests, won a cash prize, being eligible for monetary award for applying for benefits or offering an alternative or 'faster' application or mobile app to apply for regular unemployment or PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) benefits."
The department advises people not to give out personal information through email, text, social media or unofficial websites, and ignore requests asking for money or offering to assist with unemployment benefits for a fee.
Calls from the Department of Labor & Industry will come from 888-313-7284 or 855-284-8545, and they will only ask for the last four Social Security number digits.
Anyone who did not file for unemployment benefits but receives a paper check or debit card should return them by mail to the Pennsylvania Treasury Department, while direct deposit funds should be returned by check or money order to the Department of Labor & Industry.
Fraud can be reported on the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation System website or the Pennsylvania Fraud Hotline at 1-800-692-7469.
Jeff Horvath and Steve Mocarsky, Staff Writers, contributed to this article.