All PUA Recipients to Receive Paper Checks, Multi-state Filing Scam at Fault for Temporary Change
Updated: May 27, 2020
HARRISBURG - Starting this week, all 360,000 Pennsylvania recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will be receiving paper checks instead of their usual credit to debit cards or direct deposit. This will result in about a four business day delay in receiving benefits.
The announcement was made during a virtual press briefing this afternoon by the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) Secretary Jerry Oleksiak and Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy Director Susan Dickinson. The temporary change in benefit payment methods for PUA claimants is the result of filing fraud discovered over the weekend by L&I's Anti-Fraud Division. The scheme, previously uncovered in other states, involves the use of personal information to file fake PUA claims for individuals who have not filed, and directing benefit payments into the accounts of the fraudsters.
Over the weekend, the Anti-Fraud Division identified a number of apparently fraudulent claims and was able to link them to a group of identified IP addresses. Temporarily switching to paper checks will help prevent improper deposits into the false accounts and give L&I time to verify accounts. Individuals who receive paper checks, but who have not filed for PUA benefits should not cash the checks. The checks should be returned to:
Department of Treasury Comptroller's Office
Attn: Mark Accorsi
Room 113, Finance Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Anyone who receives a direct deposit and did not file for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania should not use the funds. The funds should be returned to:
Department of Labor & Industry
651 Boas St., Room 500
Harrisburg, PA 17121
Payments must be made by personal check, cashier's check, certified check, or money order to the "PA UC Fund". In both cases, individuals returning payments are asked to include a brief signed statement with the reason they are sending in the payment and include their printed name, address, the last four digits of their social security number, phone number, and email address.
Cashing the checks or using direct deposited funds when the recipient did not apply may be deemed fraud and repayment will be required.
"We have been on very high alert since reports began surfacing recently of scammers targeting unemployment benefits programs across the country. We are working closely with other state and federal agencies, as well as law enforcement, to investigate these incidents," said Oleksiak. "I want to assure everyone, particularly people who have submitted information to L&I through our unemployment compensation programs, that none of our programs or data have been breached.
"These fraudsters are using personal information that they have obtained without permission from other sources to file for PUA benefits and route their payments to their own bank accounts. It is possible that many Pennsylvanians are not aware their identities were previously stolen and should keep a close eye on their credit rating, as well as remain vigilant in protecting their personal information."
L&I will be sending additional information to all PUA claimants via U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday to ensure they applied and confirm that their personal information has not been compromised. The fraud applies to the PUA recipients -- individuals out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but who are not otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania. Regular Unemployment Compensation benefits will be paid as usual. L&I's anti-fraud division is charged with preventing, identifying, and blocking scams. It reminds Pennsylvanians to take steps to protect themselves against unemployment scams, including:
Never give out your personal information over email or text message.
Don't wire money, and always ignore the following requests:
Communications related to your UC benefits from someone asking for money;
Someone who says they can help you file for your benefits for a fee; and
Anyone claiming to work for L&I who says they need a fee to complete your application.
Don't open or respond to unsolicited emails or text messages.
Never give out your personal information on websites or social media channels – especially those that claim they can help you apply for UC benefits. Third parties can't apply for your benefits.
Don't trust or rely on UC info from unofficial websites – always visit www.uc.pa.gov for Pennsylvania unemployment program information.
L&I may need to call you. If you file a claim, save the following unemployment phone numbers to your phone so you know you're receiving a legitimate call from L&I:
888-313-7284 – regular UC
855-284-8545 – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) phone number
They will ask you for some personal identification information including the last four digits of your Social Security number, but we will not ask for your full SSN. For questions about your PUA claims, you may also email the PUA team at firstname.lastname@example.org.