Unemployment Fraud Scheme in Maryland Uncovers $500 Million
Identity theft is a huge issue. In 2019, 1 in 15 Americans were victims. Identity theft is popular because it allows someone to use someone else’s information for financial purposes. Identity theft allows a person to file fraudulent claims with government agencies. Right now, Maryland is a hot spot for identity theft.
The state recently experienced a huge spike in fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits—to the tune of $501 million. The unemployment department became suspicious when it saw an influx of claims being filed by applicants who lived out of state. An investigation showed that people had stolen personal information to fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits.
The identity theft was detected around July 4. The state has now put a hold on payment for out-of-state claims. However, this led to some valid claims being denied. Some people who live out of state are eligible to receive unemployment benefits from Maryland, such as those who have professional licenses here. These applicants got their payments frozen. Money that was on their state-issued unemployment debit cards was suddenly wiped out without notice.
Upon contacting the employment department, all the applicants received was a generic email saying that “an unusual increase in out-of-state claims led to select accounts being terminated.” There was no further communication and getting a hold of a live person via telephone is almost impossible. Those who were affected have not had their accounts restored yet.
It is unknown who is committing the identity theft crimes, although multiple other states have been affected. On July 6, the FBI announced a spike in fraudulent unemployment claims. The stolen identities allegedly came from past data breaches. Theft relating to unemployment claims is on the rise as Americans deal with the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic. Millions of people have been laid off for months, so the states are facing a huge backlog of claims. Since March, Maryland has received nearly 625,000 claims for unemployment benefits. Approximately 24,000 of those applicants are still waiting for payment. Compounding this situation further is the fact that tens of thousands of unemployed Maryland residents are filing new claims every week.
Plus, with the stimulus package offering an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits, many people are finding ways to take advantage of this extra money. This has led to huge scams.
However, state officials are working hard to spot fraudulent claims. They are working with federal officials as they continue to investigate.
Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Today
Theft may seem minor to some people, but it is actually a serious crime. While people in general are tempted by making money, identity theft and other online crimes come with hefty penalties. The fines can be hefty and many people are forced to pay restitution to victims.
Have you been charged with theft? If so, contact the Columbia theft lawyers at The Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. right away. We understand how to fight these charges and can help you, even if the FBI is involved. We have two offices to serve you. Call (410) 774-5987 or fill out the online form to schedule a free consultation.