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Anti-fraud efforts in place in unemployment cases

Those who legitimately need unemployment compensation are getting hurt by fraudulent claimants, state labor officials said.

The state Department of Labor & Industry said Monday due to an alarming spike in suspicious applications for unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, additional anti-fraud and identity verification measures will be put in place.

“Payments for new applicants are being temporarily delayed and the department will provide more information as the enhancement continues,” said Jerry Oleksiak, department secretary.

There is no effect on people who have already opened a PUA claim.

“We know the PUA program is a lifeline for many families, and we want these Pennsylvanians to be able to access support as quickly as possible during this time of hardship,” he said in a briefing with reporters.

The department is getting additional anti-fraud measures put in place as quickly as possible to return its focus to serving those in need instead of fighting scammers and thieves, he said.

As soon as the PUA program began scammers began filing claims under stolen identities using personal information stolen through data breaches that occurred outside of state government.

Several states, including Pennsylvania, implemented security measures to help identify and prevent payout for fraudulent claims. As these measures were put in place, L&I saw a reduction in the overall number of claims filed for the PUA program.

Late last week, L&I staff noticed a spike in new claims from the average of about 5,000 daily, reaching more than 20,000 on Friday, with many of these new claims being filed from outside of Pennsylvania.

As soon as this surge was detected, L&I staff immediately notified its law enforcement partners and met with third party vendor Geographic Solutions Inc. to develop stronger identity verification methods.

Applications for the PUA program are continuing to be accepted, but new payouts are being postponed until the new identity verification methods are implemented.

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