Jun. 16, 2020 / Newspaper Columns

By State Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) 

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) is working closely with state and federal partners to monitor COVID-19 scams across the country that are targeting unemployment benefits programs and their claimants.

The scammers behind the COVID-19-related fraud appear to be using Social Security numbers and other personally identifiable information belonging to identity theft victims to commit unemployment compensation (UC) fraud. In many situations, the victims are unaware that their identity has been stolen.

One of the warning signs of a possible COVID-19 scam is the receipt of any type of correspondence regarding the filing of an unemployment claim when the individual did not file a claim for benefits.

Anyone who receives a paper check in the mail and did not file for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania should not cash the checks. The checks should then be returned.

L&I’s anti-fraud division recently discovered attempts by scammers to try and bilk COVID-19 unemployment benefits using personal information obtained from sources outside of L&I. The scammers are using this personal information to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. L&I has mailed additional information to all PUA claimants to ensure they applied and confirm that their personal information has not been compromised.

As a result of the scams, PUA claimants will now receive their benefit payments by deposits on their U.S. Bank ReliaCard. Cards will be mailed to claimants who do not currently have one, and those claimants will begin receiving benefit payments on the cards starting on approximately June 16. Payments will no longer be issued by paper check except upon request.

L&I’s anti-fraud division remains committed to preventing, identifying and blocking scams and is continuing its aggressive efforts to do so. Those efforts include cross-matching data with other state agencies and across the country to detect fraud activity and working with the U.S. Department of Labor to prevent and detect fraudulent activities related to UC.

More information, including how to prevent and report UC fraud, is available at www.dli.pa.gov.

Representative Tarah Toohil
116th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office
RepToohil.com / Facebook.com/RepToohil