HONOLULU (KHON2) — Identity thieves are to blame for most of a whopping $92 million in fraudulent claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA benefits in Hawaii so far, and nearly 6,000 local residents have reported they’re victims.
That’s according to the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, which disclosed the scope of the problem for the first time today. They say they’ve been able to block more than $76 million in payments but at least $15 million has gone out.
“We were surprised. We weren’t expecting that big of a hit,” said Anne Perreira-Eustaquio, DLIR deputy director. “We’re not quite sure exactly how big these groups are, if they’re from local groups, mainland groups, foreign groups.”
Perreira-Eustaquio says the fraud is not linked to any labor department data breach but could be tied to past credit-bureau or credit card breaches that gave thieves access to Social Security numbers and birthdates.
The DLIR added an identity-check layer that the federal system did not have at rollout, which sent out verification letters first prior to releasing any benefits. Thousands of people in Hawaii came forward after getting letters saying they’d been approved for benefits they never applied for.
“I want to thank them, that’s what’s helping us the most,” Perreira-Eustaquio said, of the victims coming forward. The DLIR advises individuals to take additional steps if they are a victim of the unemployment fraud because it’s a sign of identity theft.
“If it wasn’t you who filed the claim to please contact the correct authorities,” Perreira-Eustaquio, DLIR said.
- How to report PUA fraud if you got a letter
- DLIR fraud FAQs
- Authorities to contact when you are a victim of ID theft
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