It usually starts in one of two ways: You’re sitting at your desk and HR calls and asks why you filed for unemployment insurance, or you open your mail to find an unexpected letter from the state with information about an unemployment insurance claim in your name. Either way, you’re likely a victim of unemployment insurance fraud.
The problem is rampant, and also affects legitimate claimants who discover that someone else has already filed a claim in their name.
The Boston Globe reported on Nov. 23 that of 31,000 new claims filed over the weekend of Nov. 14 and 15, only about 1,000 – a little over 3% – cleared the state’s screening, according to the Department of Unemployment Assistance, with the others held due to possible fraud.
“There is a tremendous amount of bot-based fraud going on,” Gov. Charlie Baker said during a press briefing on Nov. 23.
More than 58,000 fraudulent unemployment claims were filed between March 8 and June 20, according to the DUA. At the time, the department said it had recovered $158 million.
Recent news articles contain story after story of local individuals, including municipal employees, who have been targets. Agawam Mayor Bill Sapelli told MassLive that he was one of several town employees who were targeted.
“We have several individuals that have been hacked, if you will, and all of a sudden you receive a letter saying you signed up for unemployment,” Sapelli said. “Our personnel office is getting those all the time, and they are getting them from people sitting at their desk – I being one of them.”
Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty told CBS Boston on Nov. 19 that 1,025 city employees have been hit by scammers using their identities to file for unemployment benefits.
“This happened to me three times,” Petty said.
FBI Special Agent Michael Livingood of the Economic Crimes Task Force told GBH news on Oct. 25, “Typically, what we see in these types of scams is that there is people’s personal information for sale online.”
Someone obtaining that information, he said, can then file for fraudulent unemployment.
There isn’t a central database where someone can check to see if a claim has been filed in their name or with their Social Security number.
According to the DUA, those who have been notified of a fraudulent claim made in their name should take the following steps:
1. Use the secure fraud reporting form to alert the DUA or call the DUA customer service department at 877-626-6800. The DUA’s Program Integrity Unit will then take appropriate action, including freezing the DUA account associated with the report. If any payments were made, they will not be reported as income to the affected individual at the end of the year. In addition, the fraudulent claim will not impact anyone’s ability to collect unemployment should the need arise in the future, and no charges will be assessed to the reporter’s employer. Employers who wish to report fraud, may send an email to UIFraud@detma.org.
2. File a police report with your local police department. Get a copy of the report to provide to creditors and credit agencies.
3. Change passwords on your email, banking and other personal accounts.
4. Make a list of credit card companies, banks and other financial institutions where you do business. Tell them you are a victim of identity theft, and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account.
5. Get a copy of your credit report and dispute any fraudulent activity. You can request credit reports online from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) by calling 877-322-8228 or visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
6. Contact all three of the major reporting agencies to freeze your credit reports.
Equifax: 800-349-9960 or www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
7. Place a fraud alert on your credit file. You can do this by contacting just one of the credit agencies to add an alert with all three agencies.
8. Take notes about all conversations and keep copies of all records.
If you have ever been notified that your data was compromised, it is even more important to remain vigilant about your credit and to closely monitor activity.
For more information, visit www.mass.gov/info-details/report-unemployment-benefits-fraud or identitytheft.gov.
Annual Meeting Workshops Provide Knowledge and Rewards
Lin Chabra, MIIA Member Training Manager
The 2021 MMA Annual Meeting & Trade Show, to be held virtually on Jan. 21 and 22, will feature the high-quality, timely workshops that members have come to expect.
MIIA members whose employees participate in any of the training sessions listed below will be eligible to earn MIIA Rewards credits.
• “Setting and Achieving Cybersecurity Goals for Your Community” will cover best practices and practical tips that offer immediate protection against financial and reputational cyber losses. Panelists will include Sam Curry, chief security officer at Cybereason, representatives from the MassCyberCenter, and Pittsfield Chief Information Officer Mike Steben.
• A workshop on governing remotely will explore the operation of municipal government during the COVID-19 pandemic, including town meetings, remote hearings and meetings, and elections. Panelists include attorneys Lauren Goldberg and Mark Reich from KP Law.
• “Ready, Set, Lead! Thriving in a Virtual Reality” will discuss the adjustment to working virtually during the pandemic. Since many of us will continue to miss out on in-person opportunities to strengthen bonds with colleagues, reports, and residents, it’s important to learn how to be as effective and connected as possible. Panelists are Cally Ritter, principal at Positive Ripple Training and Consulting, and Adam Sutton, founder of Working Happier.
• “Getting Public Health Right” will explore the lessons learned from the COVID pandemic, and how we can be better prepared for future health crises. It will also discuss ways that regional collaboration is used for emergency preparedness and pandemic planning. Panelists are Norwood Health Director Sigalle Reiss, president of the Massachusetts Health Officers Association, and Connor Robichaud, principal planner at the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission.
• In “Municipal Law Update,” attorneys will discuss important developments in municipal law as they relate to Massachusetts cities and towns.
• “Mutual Aid in Public Works,” sponsored by the Massachusetts Highway Association, will explore how communities can provide backup for each other in public works during emergencies.
• “Navigating Difficult Conversations About Workforce Diversity” will focus on how to have conversations about race, equity and inclusion in the workplace. This workshop will explain how to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” and provide the tools needed to start difficult conversations about anti-racist values in your community and to initiate change through action. Panelists are Southborough Assistant Town Administrator Vanessa Hale and Kathy Lopes, LICSW, director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the Newton Public Schools. The moderator is Needham Human Resources Director Rachel Glisper.
• “Cultivating Equity in Your Community” will focus on best practices in municipal government to ensure equitable engagement of diverse communities. Opportunities for civic engagement should be open and accessible to all, particularly to those who have been historically underrepresented. Panelists are Easton Select Board Chair Dottie Fulginiti, and Methuen City Councillor Eunice Zeigler, and the moderator is Wakefield Town Councillor Mehreen Butt.
• In “Labor Law Update,” attorneys will discuss recent developments in labor and employment law, including major court cases, agency decisions and legislation.
• “Pandemic Permitting” will focus on best practices for permitting housing and commercial development during the pandemic. Panelists will be Arlington Planning and Community Development Director Jennifer Raitt, a member of the MMA Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration; Stephen Rolle, assistant chief development officer in Worcester; and Andrew Shapiro, Community and Economic Development director in North Andover.
• “Managing Systemic Racism and Bias in Your Police Department” will explore how racism impacts minority groups within a police department, and proven ways to address the issue internally and in the wider community. Panelists are Nina Nazarian and Acton Town Manager John Mangiaratti, co-chairs of the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, and public safety consultant Brett Parson, a retired lieutenant with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C.
For complete information about the MMA Annual Meeting, visit www.mma.org/annual-meeting.