NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Would-be scammers have tried to steal more than $5.5 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York state officials said Tuesday.
Since March 2020, “fraudsters” have filed more than 425,000 fake unemployment benefit claims with New York state, representing more than $5.5 billion in benefits, the New York State Department of Labor said in a press release.
“Unemployment fraud is — sadly — a scourge that we have to fight every day, but it is particularly despicable that criminals would use a global pandemic as cover to attempt to defraud our system,” the department’s commissioner, Roberta Reardon, said in a statement.
“These benefits have been a lifeline for millions of New Yorkers over the last year, and every day our Office of Special Investigations is working to protect our system from fraud and abuse,” she added.
Some of the scammers who tried to secure unemployment benefits used “real New Yorkers’ identities — likely stolen during previous data breaches involving institutions like banks insurance companies and major employers,” the department said.
To protect their information, New Yorkers should report any incidents of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission; file a report with their local police department if their identity is stolen; and report any misused Social Security numbers, the department noted.