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Wave of pandemic unemployment fraud crashes into Cambridge

Cambridge Police report a growing number of complaints from people who have had their personal information - including their social-security numbers - used to create bogus unemployment claims.

Between Friday and Sunday, Cambridge residents reported 14 such cases. This comes atop 25 other reports filed with police between May 27 and June 4.

Fraudsters, many possibly based in Nigeria, are now trading tips on how to take advantage of the pandemic-specific unemployment funds set up by states with federal funding - Massachusetts is not the only state being hit. The one bit of information they don't use is the alleged recipients' bank-account information - for that, they supply their own bank account and routing numbers.

In many cases, the complaints come from people who either did not lose their jobs or who are retired and so never applied for the payments and so are startled to get notification from the state that their payments have started.

Massachusetts form for reporting unemployment insurance fraud.

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Comments

It always feels strange that you're supposed to report online fraud to the local police. Wouldn't it make more sense if there were a state or federal office that specializes in this stuff?

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Voting closed 17

All the more reason to split up their duties as the protests have asked for.

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The Mass AGO and the DOL do. Unfortunately here the problem. The AGO will not/can not/does not have the resource to pursue out of State/Country which is often the case with these fraud claims, and the DOL will only pursue if it is a slam dunk case in which the DUA provides all the information - which their resources are limited.

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Voting closed 3

Not just unemployment fraud -- for any type of bank, credit card, or online fraud you're supposed to file a local police report. For example, if someone pulled money from your account using a fraudulent check or ACH, the bank wants to see a police report before they give the money back. Maybe a big police department has someone who specializes in this, but what is a smaller town supposed to do about it?

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Voting closed 1

If the state hadn't sent out a letter saying how much he'd be getting, we never would have known about it. We called the state's unemployment div. to find out what this was all about and filed a fraud complaint with them. I understand people legitimately need financial help since everything was shut down but the government needs to do a much better job checking all these claims. This is going to cost taxpayers millions.

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Voting closed 10

Massachusetts is going to have 10,000 or so of these false claims. There has been at least 1,000 in Boston in May and June alone.

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As a former member of the DUA - specifically fraud cases - this isn't new. After the normal tax deadline in April fraud for unemployment spikes in May and June. The fraudsters are not always international, a great deal are local. They use a "scraping" computer program that enters "claimant info" quickly - it is a numbers game with them. They flood the system with 100 a day, and if 10% hit - that is a huge payday. The DUA stopped putting issues on claims for "claim entered time." What this means is an unemployment application take 15 - 20 minutes on the low end to enter into the system, these claims average under 3 minutes - that is how we previously stopped these claims in the past. When the new administration came in they were less interested in stopping these claims - the reason? The DOL has guidelines of which preventing or managing fraud is not one of them - timely payments, accurate payments etc which the Agency decided to improve - which is great, but they threw the baby out with the bathwater. Once the federal $600- kicker came into play the Agency should have realized what was going to happen - unfortunately the Agency is reactive, no proactive. They exchange SSN and PII through sites like YOPMAIL (password less email) and often use American Express Centurion cards to have the funds loaded - due to the number of digits on the those card you cannot tell the difference between that and a regular bank account. The two other most important things are for businesses to be on the lookout and respond if an active employee shows up on a claim for unemployment - the business should also notify the employee, the other was the one week waiting period as well as an initial paper check for the first UI payment - both which were abolished to speed up UI claims during this pandemic. The paper check usually was found by the person being defrauded and the claim could be halted prior to the second payment - and with the waiting period it game businesses more time to react to potential fraud.

The DUA currently has the majority of their staff working from home - and with the majority of high positions being FOC (friends of Charlie) if will be hard for them to resolve this issue - the damage is done.

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Voting closed 10

I know two people this has happened to- the numbers have to be high.
We need to hear more answers, how is this happening?
One was thinking maybe during the Target security breach.
Hopefully this gets more publicity because a lot of people ignore mail.
Really unnerving.

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Voting closed 6

With a few local scammers as well.

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And since I'm the person who does HR at my company I got the notification both at home and at work. Filed a fraud notice and hope this gets corrected before any money goes to a scammer. They probably got my info because I worked for the census bureau once upon a time and federal information got hacked a couple of years ago.

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I got a letter about my "claim" and called the number on the letter. Whoever applied as me had been filing claims since March and was due to receive nearly $10,000. After I waited on hold for 45 minutes and got disconnected (par for the course), I reached someone who stopped the payment process and marked the claim as fraudulent.

Since there's been so much fraud, the state has added another tier of ID checking for claimants, which is stopping a lot of it. I was lucky that the scammer didn't know my birthday, although they had everything else they needed.

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Voting closed 4

I filed an entirely legitimate claim in April. The online application was surprisingly simple. I got my first payment, including several retroactive weeks, a week and a half after I applied. I'm not sure how much, if any, effort was made to verify my claim. They certainly never contacted me to ask for any supporting evidence, which of course I do have. My co-workers had similar experiences.

For people laid off from "normal" jobs, they supposedly verify your income and job status with your former employer. But that doesn't apply to self-employed people, who are now eligible to file for the first time.

Shortly after the Krebs on Security article first appeared, my weekly payments were delayed for "Processing" for a while. I assume that was due to fraud investigation. But again, they never contacted me to verify anything. Eventually payments resumed, including the back payments that had been delayed.

I suspect the scammers are targeting Massachusetts because our state pays higher benefits than many other states, and because of the ease of application. I've seen news media reports of residents in other states waiting weeks to receive payment, or waiting in long lines just to obtain and file paper forms.

The Krebs article includes a screen shot of someone having received multiple payments of $867 from Massachusetts. Based on my out-of-work co-workers' experience, that $867 seems to be the minimum weekly payout if you're eligible to get anything: $267 base amount + $600 extra per week due to the CARES Act. The multiple payments were probably retroactive amounts on a newly-filed claim, just like the legitimate multiple payments that I and many of my co-workers received when we first filed.

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Voting closed 4

Hope you don't mind my asking how long you were delayed for? I've called in and spoken with an agent and they told me that when this happens its usually resolved after 2 weeks, but here I am on week 3 and about to be week 4 and my payments are still stating processing.

Agent told me there wasn't any additional ID verification needed but its really getting to crunch time for me. Thanks in advance.

Josh

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Voting closed 0

Unemployment income is taxable, and I'm assuming the scammers aren't having any withholding deducted.

Meanwhile, if the payments are being directly deposited with the account and routing numbers provided, shouldn't it be pretty easy to track down the miscreants and maybe even retrieve much of the money? Last I checked (no pun intended) you aren't even supposed to be able to open an account without positive ID.

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Voting closed 7

I’m one of the especially unlucky folks who had someone set up an Unemployment claim with my SSN right before I could do it after losing my job. The MA DUI seems to be treating it like I don’t need to file a claim and no one can tell me when this might be fixed when I call DUI or the Fraud number.

I did, however, get some insight into the info the frauder used: apparently they didn’t even supply a valid number for their drivers license. But it was A number so that’s good enough for DUA’s claim form. It’s not like the state of MA doesn’t have information to cross-check this with to avoid this type of thing. Sadly their security on the DUI website is terrible overall.

I have no idea if they’ll ever remove the fraudulent account so I can have my SSN back to make my actual claim. I’m not optimistic.

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