The latest news is a spike in unemployment claim fraud on both employers and the unemployed (identity theft) in addition to the continuing backlog in the approval of unemployment benefits. Summing it up, unemployment remains a bit of a mess.
While it is hard to feel sympathy for the folks who work at the unemployment offices, it has been a situation in which the rules and directions have changed quickly. As such, there is a lack of time to create processes and staff up for the extraordinary situation we have faced during the pandemic. On the other hand, they have had the last 18 months or so to figure out how to improve things.
A July 26 article in The Morning Call had some insights on the growth of fraud. Here are some tips to help employers report fraudulent claims.
When an employer responds to the notice of a claim that has been filed, the department does not need any of the person’s real employment information. (It’s likely someone phishing for information.) Businesses should look for a response from the unemployment office that tells them the claim is fraudulent and should not have been opened. The fields do not need to be completed unless the system requires it (like start date, end date and termination date), and when that happens, you can just enter the current date. Do not spend time providing actual hire dates because this is a fraudulent claim.
A field employers should accurately complete is the reason for separation. For likely identity theft claims, you should enter the reason for separation as “Still working full-time.” When the system receives the response, it will create an issue on the claim which will prevent payment if it is not already being prevented by some other reason.
If a business is not able to log in to the new benefits system (a frequent issue), here are the steps to submit your responses. Visit https://www.uc.pa.gov/unemployment-benefits/UCBenMod and scroll down to the box that reads “How Employers can notify the office of UC Benefits about fraudulent claims.” From the Unemployment Services widget, click “More Unemployment Services” and then the “Notice of Separation” link. Choose the Claimants tab. After locating the individual for whom you wish to report, click on the “Needs Response” link.
If you are not able to log into the new benefits system yet, you can respond using SIDES e-response if you are enrolled in SIDES. Visit https://www.uc.pa.gov/employers-uc-services-uc-tax/sides/. Scroll down and read the PDF: “How Employers can notify the Office of UC Benefits about fraudulent claims.” Here is the information to enroll in SIDES: https://www.uc.pa.gov/employers-uc-services-uc-tax/sides/Pages/default.aspx
Alternatively, if you are unable to log into the system, respond to your mailed paperwork by simply writing “fraudulent claim” across the front of the form and mailing it back to the department.
Employers who hired a third-party administrator to handle unemployment matters can disregard any notices of application. Your third-party administrator should be handling these for you.
Here are some other things to know.
Appealing the financial determination is not the appropriate way to report a fraudulent claim for your business. It is inundating the monetary appeals staff. Instead, use the above steps to report the fraud.
As the employer, you should simply respond to the claim notices but not also file a fraud report using the web site’s “Report Fraud” link. The individual affected should use the “Report Fraud” link to file a report. While not mandatory, the employer should notify the individual that a fraudulent claim has been filed in their identity.
If a payment has already been made on that claim, payments will continue every other week until a staff member is able to deny the claim. Ultimately, you will not be charged for benefits paid to fraudulent, identity theft-related claims. Once benefits are denied, an overpayment will be set up, which will credit your account.
Reporting the same claims multiple times is tying up resources. For as many of these false claims as businesses are receiving, the unemployment office is receiving many more. Do not duplicate reports no matter how long it has been since you first reported it.
For employees who have been a victim of identity theft in that someone has filed for unemployment compensation using your name, follow these instructions. https://www.uc.pa.gov/Fraud/Pages/Fraud-FAQs.aspx
According to this website, if you are a victim of identity theft, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission to learn how to start a recovery plan. They also recommend you report the theft to your local police department. Also, do not delay returning a fraudulent unemployment check. And definitely don’t cash it.
Overall, things with unemployment are evolving. Employers: do your best to pay attention to what is happening with your unemployment account. You pay into it and it’s not worth losing your investment over fraud. As for employees, as I mentioned in a previous column, your state representatives are available to lend a hand when getting through the unemployment system seems impossible. Don’t give up.