The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) today alerts Montanans to a recent development in nationwide fraud schemes targeting unemployment insurance programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We continue to see reports of criminals applying for unemployment benefits using someone else’s identity and personal information stolen from sources outside of the agency,” Acting Commissioner Brenda Nordlund said. “DLI has controls and processes in place to prevent, identify, and block fraud, to protect the integrity of Montana’s unemployment system. Montanans can help us with this cause by protecting their personal information and reporting any suspicious activity to the Department.”
With the help of the public, DLI has learned that criminals are using physical addresses of properties for sale, which are available online, in an attempt to remain undetected. DLI has issued an announcement to the Montana Board of Realty Regulation and the Montana Association of Realtors to elevate awareness and prompt action in response to this fraudulent activity.
DLI is asking the public to help combat UI fraud by:
- Returning mail from DLI that is addressed to someone other than themselves to the post office by writing “NATA – Not at This Address” on the envelope and dropping it in an outgoing mailbox.
- Notifying our fraud prevention unit if they did not apply for UI yet received mail that indicates a claim was opened in their name.
- Remaining vigilant in protecting all personally identifiable information.
DLI is continuously working to resist these criminal schemes. Between June 1, 2020, and August 31, 2020, alone, DLI has stopped just under $189M in fraudulent payments, in addition to another $185M in possibly fraudulent UI payments.
DLI encourages those that believe they may be a victim of unemployment fraud to report it at uid.dli.mt.gov/report-fraud immediately. The Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at identitytheft.gov provides resources and a detailed step-by-step process for reporting and protecting against identity theft. Those that have been a target of this criminal activity are not required to repay any stolen money. Individuals who are victims of UI fraud are still able to apply for unemployment benefits if needed.
Agency staff thoroughly review and investigate all reports of potential, alleged, or suspected fraud. Those found to have committed UI fraud are subject to federal and state criminal prosecution.