The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Pennsylvania released the below:
PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro issued a warning to Pennsylvanians today to be alert to fraudsters using stolen identities to try to obtain Coronavirus Stimulus Funds.
The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) has reported that individuals are filing claims with stolen identities for Pennsylvania Unemployment Assistance (PUA). The PUA Program is administered by the DLI as part of the Federal Stimulus and is intended to benefit workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. Attorney McSwain and Attorney General Shapiro announced that federal and state law enforcement will aggressively pursue and prosecute anyone perpetrating this type of fraud.
“Fraud like this causes great harm to many citizens at a time when they are most vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “It is especially intolerable that criminals are trying to take advantage of an unprecedented public health emergency. My Office and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office will not tolerate it, and we will do everything in our collective power to ensure that such fraud scams are stopped and punished.”
“Scammers are working overtime during this crisis and trying to take advantage of the nearly 1 in 3 Pennsylvanians who have lost a job. We will not let anyone ripoff the public and the millions who are out of work,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “Our offices are using every resource at the state and federal level to figure out who these criminals are and put a stop to this theft. If you get a check you didn’t apply for or a deposit you are questioning, please contact our offices. We need the public’s help to address these crimes.”
According to the DLI, in one version of the fraud, the thieves use stolen identities of employed people to file claims for PUA, but direct that the money be sent to the fraudsters’ own bank accounts. Since discovering this scheme, DLI has taken steps to route PUA funds to the individuals named in the applications in order to prevent the thieves from receiving the stolen funds. As a result, victims of identity theft may only learn that their personal identifying information was stolen when they improperly receive a Pennsylvania unemployment compensation check, or a direct deposit of unemployment benefits, for which they never applied.
If any Pennsylvanian believes they have been a victim of this type of fraud or identity theft, U.S. Attorney McSwain and Attorney General Shapiro provided the following guidance:
· If you receive a paper check for unemployment benefits in the mail but did not file for such benefits in Pennsylvania, do not cash the check.
· Likewise, if you receive a direct deposit for unemployment benefits but did not file for such benefits in Pennsylvania, do not use the funds. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry website contains detailed instructions for returning the money.
· In addition, it is very important that victims report suspected identity theft to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry. A form is available on the Department’s website: DLI.PA.GOV. Identity theft and fraud can also be reported to the Department using its Fraud Hotline 1-800-692-7469. This information will be shared with law enforcement to investigate this suspected criminal activity.
The investigations are being handled by the Coronavirus Fraud Working Group, led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and including the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the United States Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, and over a dozen other federal law enforcement agencies.