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Pennsylvania Unemployment Fraud

Unemployment fraud is a serious issue that diverts unemployment assistance away from those who need it the most. Between 2020 and 2021, up to $6 billion in unemployment fraud was committed in Pennsylvania, keeping these essential dollars out of the hands of deserving families.

If you’re receiving unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania, there are several things you can do to protect yourself against unemployment fraud. We’ll show you how to alert authorities if and when you suspect unemployment fraud has taken place, and walk you through everything you need to know.

What Is Unemployment Fraud?

If you fail to report payments or end up deceiving the authorities about your eligibility, then you should expect to be caught. Giving false information to the Department of Labor & Industry or withholding information to obtain UC Benefits may be charged and criminally prosecuted under various existing Pennsylvania laws.

  • Unsworn falsification to authorities
  • Theft by deception
  • False statements or representations to obtain or increase compensation
  • Knowingly submitting incorrect information in order to qualify for unemployment benefits
  • Continuing to collect unemployment benefits even after a claimant has found work and is no longer eligible
  • Intentionally under-reporting income while collecting unemployment benefits
  • Filing for unemployment benefits using someone else’s personal information

    Even something as simple as keeping an unemployment benefit overpayment is classified as unemployment fraud. Always make sure you know the amount of the benefit you should receive and return any overpayment immediately. You can use the PA unemployment calculator to make sure you’re clear on your appropriate benefit amount.

    The Pennsylvania Office of Unemployment Compensation can and will verify the nature of your termination with your previous employer, along with making a financial determination about your eligibility. Your unemployment insurance benefits will be based on the income you received from your most recent employer. While it can be tempting to inflate this number on your initial claim and maximize your benefits, you need to be honest because they can and will check with the human resources department of your previous employer to verify these wages.

    Overpayments

    It’s important to keep an eye out for any overpayments. Make every effort to return the money to avoid fraud charges.

    An overpayment is defined as any payment of unemployment benefits to which you are not entitled. Sometimes, you might receive an overpayment that is not your fault, while in other circumstances, claimants collect overpayments of UC benefits through deceptive means.

    Overpayments can be classified as unemployment fraud, so it’s important to make sure the money you receive in unemployment compensation is the correct amount. If you are found to have purposefully submitted misinformation in order to collect UC benefits, you’ll have to repay the money along with any associated interest and penalties.

    In some cases, Pennsylvania may require you to serve a penalty week, which is a week during which you receive no unemployment benefits, even though you would otherwise be eligible. It’s important to note that penalty weeks are in addition to the repayment of any amount you fraudulently accepted.

    Pennsylvania UC law also allows both prosecution and stiff penalties for claimants who knowingly make false statements or withhold information either to qualify for or increase their Pennsylvania UC benefits. Those who are convicted could be fined up to $1,000 or go to prison for up to 30 days – or both – for every false statement they submit or each instance of failure to disclose a material fact.

    Those found guilty also may be required to pay restitution for the amount of UC benefits they fraudulently received, and they are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits for a full year. One of the most important things you can do to maintain your UC eligibility is to double check every direct deposit or check to make sure you’re receiving the appropriate PUA benefit amount. The PA unemployment calculator can help. And if you are overpaid, contact the UC center and make arrangements to immediately return the overpayment.

    How To Report Fraud

    If you suspect that someone is fraudulently receiving PA unemployment benefits, it’s important to report fraud as soon as possible. This is especially true if someone has fraudulently filed for unemployment benefits using your information.

    You can report fraud in Pennsylvania in several different ways. If you believe someone has filed for unemployment benefits using personal information such as your name, Social Security Number, and date of birth without your knowledge or consent, you can report them using the state of Pennsylvania’s fraud reporting website. You can also call the Pennsylvania fraud hotline at 800-692-7469.

    You should also file a police report with your municipality and you can check with the Federal Trade Commission for the next steps regarding identity recovery.

    For all other types of unemployment fraud, you can Report Fraud on Pennsylvania’s UC benefits website. You can report anyone who is illegally receiving benefits, including people who may be working and not reporting wages or people who are unable to work due to illness, disability, or incarceration. You can also report suspicious phone calls or other outreach that you suspect to be fraudulent.

    Pennsylvania provides a separate reporting path for any unemployment fraud believed to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To report fraud related to Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, please use the PA Benefits Fraud form.

    Identity Theft

    In some cases, an unemployment claim is filled out with stolen information. You might even have a claim filed in your name if you provide an unscrupulous person with the information they need to file a weekly benefit claim—like your Social Security Number. That’s why you should always be vigilant about phishing attempts to obtain your personal information, like a suspicious email, text message, or a phone call. These phishing attempts may be totally unrelated to an unemployment benefit, but the phishers could use your information to file a claim with the unemployment office.

    If you think you are the victim of it, you should direct yourself to the UC benefits website or make a call to 1-800-692-7469. Unfortunately identity theft and other types of fraud were common during Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. You can use the same web link and phone number to report fraud or identity theft relating to PEUC.

    How To Protect Yourself From Unemployment Scams in Pennsylvania

    There are a few specific things you can do to help protect yourself from becoming the victim of an unemployment scam. First, make sure to guard your personal information carefully. Don’t give out any kind of personal information to someone who asks for it over text or email. And don’t wire money to anyone requesting funds that have to do with your PA unemployment eligibility. If someone contacts you and asks for money related to your unemployment benefits, you can be fairly certain it’s a scam.

    Never wire money to anyone who says they can help you file for your unemployment benefits for a fee, and the same goes for anyone who claims to work for the state of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor and Industry and says they need a fee to complete your application for unemployment insurance benefits.

    No one from the state of Pennsylvania will ever request money from you in connection with your unemployment claim. If you receive a phone call, email, or other outreach of this type, please report it immediately.

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