‘Rampant’ Fraud Seen In Unemployment Claims

OCEAN CITY — With federal unemployment insurance enhancements set to expire next week, the number of fraudulent claimants in Maryland continues to soar.

Enhanced unemployment benefits during the pandemic have attributed somewhat to the acute labor shortage in the resort and beyond this year along with a variety of other factors. The federal supplement, which adds $300 on top of a claimant’s regular state contribution is set to expire on July 1, which could help ease the issue.

Of course, some remain on unemployment due to COVID and many rightfully so, but there has been a remarkable spike in the number of fraudulent claims during the pandemic, including over half a million in the last six weeks alone, according to a Maryland Department of Labor report released this week.

“With fraudulent activity rampant in unemployment insurance programs across the country, Maryland has consistently adapted and added new security measures to prevent, detect and report fraud,” said Governor Larry Hogan this week. “In fact, an astonishing 1.3 million claims flagged by the state have been confirmed as fraudulent since the beginning of the pandemic, with over 508,000 being detected in the last month and a half alone.”

With the record number of unemployment insurance claims filed during the pandemic, especially with the enhanced federal contribution, Maryland and other states have been combatting “bad actors” and fraudsters using illegally-obtained data to file claims. The state’s Department of Labor is urging business owners and employers to be aware of fraudulent separation claims.

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“As the economy recovers and states across the country continue to opt out of the federal benefits programs, bad actors are becoming more brazen and aggressive in their attempts to exploit unemployment insurance programs than ever before,” said state Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. “I strongly encourage all Marylanders to remain especially vigilant in the coming weeks to protect themselves against scams and identity theft.”

In partnership with LexisNexis, an independent vendor selected to provide identity theft and fraud detection services, it was been determined over 508,000 potentially fraudulent claims have been filed in Maryland since the week ending May 8. In the week ending June 5, there were over 190,000 fraudulent claims filed, with another 140,000 in the week ending June 12.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.