Unemployment Insurance Fraud Impacts Mainers and Financial Institutions

As the League has been reporting, a massive, ongoing unemployment insurance fraud scheme is impacting consumers and financial institutions throughout Maine. On Tuesday, the Maine Department of Labor issued a press release outlining the steps the department will be taking to combat this fraud. The U.S. Secret Service also briefed the League on their coordinated response. Because this effort is multi-faceted, the League encourages credit unions to remain vigilant.

  • As employers, if you are asked to verify the employment status of a current employee, it is important to reject the claim as quickly as possible. The League also strongly recommends notifying the employee about the inquiry, as their personally identifiable information could be in the hands of criminals. That employee should notify the Maine Department of Labor if they believe someone has used their identity to fraudulently apply for or obtain unemployment benefits. The online complaint form is at https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/
  • For members, the League encourages you to remind them to check their accounts regularly for suspicious activity. If they see an unanticipated unemployment claim, they should notify you as quickly as possible so you can send the money back to the state. They also can place a free credit freeze on their credit with the three major credit reporting agencies. The credit freeze will prevent unauthorized parties from accessing their credit reports. For more information, you can direct them to the Maine Credit Freeze Fact Sheet.
  • In the course of business, credit unions should take the following steps:
    • Continue to scrutinize new online accounts, especially those set up by people from out of state.
    • Utilize incoming ACH files and ACH warehouse reports to ensure the name on the ACH transaction matches the name on the account.
    • Check with members if they are receiving a transaction that seems suspicious.
    • Be suspicious of frequent unemployment transactions, or unemployment transactions from a variety of states.
    • Make every effort to return fraudulent items before they post to member accounts.
    • Continue filing SARs reports. Remember that SARs can be filed for any amount of money if you have reason to suspect a transaction is related to some form of illegal activity. Please reference “Unemployment Fraud Scheme” in bold on the report to help the Department of Justice more easily flag activity that could be part of this fraud scheme. Provide as many details as possible on the SAR, including a summary of any conversations you had with your member about the inquiry.

If you have questions or need additional assistance related to fraud, contact Ellen Parent, the League’s Legislative & Regulatory Advocacy Coordinator, at eparent@mainecul.org, or Rebekah Higgins, Synergent’s Payment and Fraud Consultant, at rhiggins@synergentcorp.com.

Additional Media Coverage:

Portland Press Herald: Scammers Target Maine’s Stressed Unemployment System
Bangor Daily News
Uptick in Fraudulent Applications Slows Maine Unemployment Claims