$15.8 Million in Potentially Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Detected by State Labor Department

June 25, 2020, 4:58 PM HST · Updated June 25, 4:58 PM
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The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has detected $15,829,889 of potentially fraudulent claims paid out as of June 24.  In addition, the department reportedly blocked $76,644,808 in “possible fraudulent PUA payments.”

State officials say investigations are ongoing and are underway to determine the exact total of erroneously paid benefits. Since June 4, 5,989 victims have reported Identity theft after receiving a letter about eligibility for PUA benefits.

“Unfortunately, bad actors including organized crime continue to attack the program designed to support our vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio. “We are working with the U.S. DOL Inspector General and the Hawaiʻi Department of the Attorney General to find those perpetrating fraud and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”

Individuals who received a letter regarding a claim for PUA who did NOT apply for benefits, are asked to follow the instructions on the letter to report potential identity theft at pua.hawaii.gov. The DLIR is not able to detect how or when a person’s identity was stolen and cannot prevent it from being used elsewhere. Individuals who suspect they have been a victim of identity theft, should file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov. The public may also check to see if their email has been breached by visiting https://haveibeenpwned.com.

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For more information about identity theft and PUA benefits, visit https://labor.hawaii.gov/pua-fraud-faqs/.

The Department of Labor and Industrial Relations today announced updated unemployment insurance claims information, including paying $1,727,662,401 since the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic on March 1, 2020.

“Ninety percent (93%) of the valid unemployment insurance claims that have come in since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been processed and paid out by the DLIR. We still have 11,405 clean claims ready for payment of benefits by filing weekly claim certifications at https://huiclaims.hawaii.gov/#/,” said Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio.

No. of claims filed statewide:238,438
No. of invalid claims filed statewide:– 69,688
No. of valid claims awaiting claimant to verify:– 11,405
No. of valid claims requiring DLIR action157,345
No. of claims paid:145,684
No. of claims requiring DLIR action 6/23/2011,661

The Department continues work to hone and refine unemployment insurance data to more strategically target those with pending claims as well as to evolve processing operations, including at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center and Hawaiʻi State Library.

“One of our current challenges in contacting employers and claimants is them not answering our phone calls,” noted Deputy Director Anne Perreira-Eustaquio. “If you are an employer or worker involved in the unemployment insurance program please note that both (808) 762-5751 and (808)-762-5752  is the department trying to reach you to process claims.”

The Department’s operations continue to evolve including the following common issues:

  • Persons working full-time and therefore ineligible for benefits but filing for the loss of part-time work,
  • Incorrect deposit information supplied by claimants,
  • No weekly certifications filed by claimants,
  • Claim backdate issues,
  • Separation from work that requires investigation,
  • Claimants that have filed multiple claims, and
  • Failure to create a username and password in the claimant online portal.

As reported across the nation, fraudsters are targeting state unemployment insurance systems in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic through various schemes and identity theft. “Bad actors are using stolen personal information from sources outside of the department, such as from massive external data breaches like the Equifax breach, to apply for benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and attempt to route payments to their own bank accounts,” said DLIR officials.

Hawaiʻi’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations initially struggled to keep up with the unprecedented increase of unemployment insurance claims. Hawaiʻi’s recent, typical average claims load of 20,000 spiked to 228,367 over the course of just a few weeks.

For more information about unemployment insurance and other labor issues please visit: https://labor.hawaii.gov/covid-19-labor-faqs/.

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