Lawmakers demand answers as swindlers of jobless fleece fund | New
ALBANY – The office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is looking into how crooks managed to collect unemployment benefits using Social Security numbers and other credentials stolen from New Yorkers.
The wave of identity theft exploiting the state unemployment insurance fund also prompts lawmakers to insist that the state labor department provide a full account of the amount of money that has been looted by crooks posing as people made redundant during the pandemic.
“THIS IS AN IDENTITY THEFT”
The rapid pace of fraudulent deposits and the financial repercussions on the unemployment system are “outrageous,” said State Senator Dan Stec, R-Queensbury.
He said his office had received a series of complaints from voters who found out after the fact that foreigners had used their names to make fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits.
“These people are understandably concerned because this is identity theft,” Stec said.
Stec and other Senate Republicans are calling for a forensic audit of the state’s computer systems, with the aim of updating it so it can better cope with surges in unemployment claims and bogus claims.
“The system, since the start of the pandemic, has been riddled with problems and my concern is that, as with the cover-up of nursing homes, there is a political motivation to withhold information,” Stec said.
Matthew Ryan, a spokesperson for DiNapoli’s office, said auditors were looking at the controls and security of the unemployment insurance system. “It was launched on the basis of our risk assessment which includes complaints, significant increases in payments, new programs and criteria, and changes to IT (information technology),” he said. he declares.
CAN’T SPEAK OF SPECIFICATIONS
At the Department of Labor, the agency that issues unemployment benefits, staff members use artificial intelligence and other “advanced resources” to counter fraudulent claims, according to Roberta Reardon, the labor commissioner of the ‘State.
The agency has already documented 1.1 million fraudulent claims, preventing thieves from pocketing $ 12.3 billion in benefits, agency spokeswoman Deanna Cohen said.
“We are not in a position to talk about the details of the investigative process or give details of the cases because that can provide a roadmap for scammers,” Cohen said.
But she noted that the labor agency “has a rigorous application and selection process to rule out ineligible or fraudulent claims, including checks from multiple state agencies.”
PROBLEM AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL
Mr Stec noted that some businesses in the upstate were being stunned by sharp increases in their unemployment insurance tax obligations, with those bills doubling in some cases.
Cohen said employers would not suffer any harm from payments resulting from fraudulent claims. Fraud has no impact on employers’ unemployment experience rating, she noted.
Unemployment fraud has been a thorny issue for state governments across the country, with crooks seeking to take advantage of an infusion of funding through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.
In some cases, claims were made on behalf of people who had never applied for benefits, and in other cases, statements were sent using the identity of the people who were laid off.
In March, the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Department of Labor reported that at least $ 89 billion out of $ 896 billion in unemployment funds “could be poorly paid, with a significant portion attributable to the fraud”.
ID.me, a company that works with the New York Labor Agency and 21 other state governments to verify unemployment claims, estimates the total amount of fraud nationwide could reach $ 300 billion.
State Department of Labor officials are urging the public to report any suspicious activity regarding jobless claims.
The crooks are believed to have breached the computer systems of financial institutions or employers of victims rather than hacked into the public agency’s system, they said.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]