The Maine Department of Labor has identified and cancelled some 2,200 unemployment claims determined to be fraudulent.
As the state's unemployment program has expanded during the pandemic. The Department says Maine, like many other states, is seeing an increase in cases of imposter fraud over the past two months in which a person's Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is stolen and used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits.
Gov. Janet Mills says the imposter fraud schemes are part of a nationwide effort by organized crime.
“We estimate that we've gotten about a thousand reports of unemployment, imposter fraud. they appear to be similar in nature, a widespread scheme that is identical to those schemes in other states.”
In response the Department says it is putting a 48-hour hold on benefits this week to allow it to remove suspected fraudulent claims. It is also reinstating its normal 10 to 14 day processing time for initial unemployment claims, which had been reduced to seven days to deal with COVID-19 related demands.
The Department says victims of identify theft and fraud will not have to repay unemployment benefits that were illegally applied for using their stolen information. Additionally, if a victim later needs to apply for unemployment benefits, they will still be able to do so.
The Department says it is working in close collaboration with state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies to investigate the alleged illegal activity.
Updated 5:31 p.m. May 27, 2020.