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S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce is actively waging war against the national crisis of
unemployment insurance fraud being inflicted on innocent unemployed workers
Columbia, S.C. – Late last week, the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) noticed unusual activity on the front of the claimant system. An unknown actor, or group of actors, initiated a series of attempts to create new accounts through the MyBenefits portal. Despite trying to create nearly 20,000 fraudulent accounts, none of the attempts were able to file a claim for UI benefits, and there was no monetary loss. This is part of a nationwide increase in UI fraud.
The attempt to register these fraudulent accounts was made using Social Security Numbers and other personal information obtained from unknown sources (for instance, the dark web, prior data breaches with other companies, etc.). The information did not come from DEW. Of the 20,000 attempts, 975 used a Social Security Number already associated with an existing DEW claimant. In these cases, the duplication of information in the system triggered a lockdown of the claimants’ accounts to prevent any unauthorized activity. No data from DEW’s claimant system was obtained and no money was lost.
The 975 claimants whose accounts were locked are being sent three notifications. The first was sent to tell them a change was made to their account, and if they did not make that change, they needed to contact the call center. The second is an email warning them we have reason to believe their personal information was obtained outside the agency and used in an attempt to file a claim, as well as providing them with instructions to unlock their account. Additionally, we are mailing a copy of the email to their primary address listed in their MyBenefits portal.
“The agency is vigilant about fraud prevention. It is happening on a daily basis, and we have to continue to be creative in our prevention just as the criminals are creative in their attempts. However, our best defense against bad actors is working with our claimants to identify fraudulent attempts,” said Executive Director Dan Ellzey. “This is a national problem and some states are suffering great losses due to criminal activity. We are certainly happy that these criminals did not access personal information and were not successful in getting any money from us, but we know the battle is not over. They will continue to try, and our agency will continue to employ resources to increase our protection of claimants. We need South Carolinians to be part of the fight. Report fraud, only engage with the agency through the MyBenefits portal or the 1-866-831-1724 number, and read the fraud hints and tips page of our website for the latest alerts to stay diligent.”
Fraud Prevention Tips
The agency actively communicates with claimants about fraud attempts and the most recent criminal activity to help them protect themselves. DEW has created a quick Fraud 101 overview. Read it here.
How You Can Help Stop Fraud: Report It!
If you know of someone who is receiving unemployment insurance fraudulently, help South Carolinians in the state who are legitimately unemployed and in need of these benefits. Report the information to the Department of Employment and Workforce by filling out the fraud form on the dew.sc.gov UI Fraud page. If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you are asked to file a police report with your local authorities and then complete the ID Theft form on the UI fraud page.
UI Fraud Penalties
If DEW finds someone committed UI fraud, they will be disqualified from receiving benefits for up to 52 weeks, they will have to repay any benefits improperly received, and will have to pay a civil penalty. Providing false information is a crime and subjects those to legal action with fines up to $100,000 and imprisonment up to 10 years. In addition to local law enforcement, DEW partners with the SC Attorney General and the United States Department of Labor to find and prosecute UI fraud.
Those found guilty of fraud over $50,000 can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and face $100,000 in fines. Those found guilty of fraud between $10,000 -$50,000, can face up to 5 years in prison and $50,000 in fines.