Target 12 on WPRI.com

DLT: Thousands now claiming ID theft in unemployment fraud scheme

Target 12
12 RESPONDS //
What is your question? We're here for you»

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Officials at the R.I. Department of Labor and Training say they have received roughly 2,000 complaints by people who claim their identities were unlawfully being used to file a false unemployment claim.

Target 12 has learned investigators are examining whether the identify theft is tied to the massive breach of personal data at credit firm Equifax in 2017, when nearly 150 million Americans were affected.

Ellen Martin said she received a letter in the mail last week from the DLT informing her that her jobless benefits had been approved.

“I called my boss right away and said, ‘Hey, were going to let me know that you laid me off?'” she recalled. “He’s like, ‘What are you talking about?'”

“Then the reality slap, realizing that this is a big deal,” she said.

Jennifer Grace is in the same situation, though in her case the fraudulent claim was flagged by her employer’s human resources department.

“I was scared that they know other things about me,” Grace said. “If [DLT] processes the claim, where was this money going to go? Because clearly it’s not going into my bank account.”

DLT Director Scott Jensen said last week that his agency had received hundreds of claims of fraud — a number that rose to 2,000 by Tuesday. Target 12 has learned the state has paid money to some of the fraudsters, but DLT spokesperson Angelika Pellegrino said “it’s too soon to tell” how much was taken.

“We’re working collaboratively with law enforcement right now to determine the scope of the scheme,” Pellegrino wrote in an email.

“The scope of the COVID-19 pandemic is massive, and so is the unemployment insurance program’s vulnerability to imposter fraud,” she continued. “Imposter fraud occurs when someone’s personal information has been compromised in another context and used to obtain unemployment benefits fraudulently.”

Martin said over the weekend she began hearing from others who were also victims.

“So many stories of, oh, this happened to my father, this happened to my friend, it’s happened to my wife,” she said. “So apparently it’s pretty widespread.”

Pellegrino said those who suspect they are a victim of unemployment fraud should email DLT at dlt.investigations@dlt.ri.gov. Rhode Islanders may also contact the State Police Financial Crimes Unit at financialcrimes@risp.gov or the FBI’s Providence Field Office at (401) 272-8310.

For Grace, she is concerned her situation may have an immediate impact, because she was about to file for unemployment benefits after her hours at work were reduced.

“I was thinking, great, now how am I going to put in a claim, because they’re going to think it’s fraud and I’m putting in the legitimate claim,” she said.

At her daily news briefing Tuesday, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she was still ascertaining how big a problem unemployment fraud is at the moment in Rhode Island, and indicated it was too soon for her to commit to providing state-paid credit monitoring or other assistance to victims.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Kim Kalunian contributed to this report

Recent episodes of 12 Responds:

Coronavirus: Coverage and Resources

Latest Headlines | COVID-19 Tracking: Maps, Charts, Interactive Data | Projection Models | Support Groups | Restaurants Offering Takeout/Delivery | Senior Shopping Hours | Photos | CDC Resources | RI Health Department | MA Health Department

RI Coronavirus Hotline: (401) 222-8022 | Work-Related Questions: (401) 462-2020 | Mental Health Assistance: (401) 414-5465

STAY INFORMED | CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

Coronavirus
News & Info
App
Updates
E-News & Alerts
Updates
CDC
Resources

Coronavirus: Latest Headlines

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Providence

Download Mobile Apps from WPRI 12
DOWNLOAD APPS NOW: Apple App Store | Google Play Store

12 on 12 - Cold Case Cards: All In

More Cold Case Cards All In
Watch 12 on 12: The Mafia Tapes - Only on WPRI.com
PINPOINT WEATHER // Quick Links:

Veteran's Voices: Honoring Those Who Serve

More Veterans Voices

Dan Yorke State of Mind: Dan's Daily Update

DYSOM 10/28/2020: Rep Anastasia Williams

More Dan Yorke State of Mind

Don't Miss

Viewer Pa on WPRI.com

LIVE CAMS on WPRI.com

More Live Cams

Community Events & Happenings

More Community

The Border Report Tour

More Border Report Tour