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DEW Refers More Than 2,800 UI Claims for Fraud Prosecution
UI Claims Currently Under Investigation by State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies
Columbia, S.C. – The S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) is closely working with state and federal partners to bring charges against individuals who are accused of committing unemployment fraud for financial gain during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of February 2021, DEW has submitted a total of 2,855 unemployment insurance claims to state or federal authorities for investigation and prosecution for UI fraud. For those referred to the DOL/OIG’s office, the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force* will take over on the investigation. We also work closely with the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, Insurance Fraud Division, on the investigation and prosecution of claims.
“The federal programs created to help people through the pandemic have, unfortunately, also been very susceptible to criminals eager to take advantage of these funds and circumvent the law for their own financial gain. Our state has aggressively fought fraud in two ways. 1) Prevention: We have implemented new security and anti-fraud measures throughout this process. We have added staff. We have added software to deter and detect fraud in the unemployment insurance program. We have worked with the Integrity Data Hub** and utilized every service that they offer. We implemented ID verification systems and, we cross match claimant data in every manner that is available to us. 2) Investigation, prosecution and collections: We have 68 people on our fraud staff that investigate fraud allegations that come to us by tips and leads, cross matching, etc. We work closely with our federal partners and local and state law enforcement agencies to conduct joint investigations of identity theft cases that are reported. As stewards of state and federal funding, we are tasked with ensuring the integrity of the unemployment insurance program and have a zero tolerance policy against fraud. We have to continue to fight for the protection of these funds so they may be available to those who are truly deserving of benefits to keep them afloat during their gap from employment,” states Executive Director Dan Ellzey.
“We do anticipate cases will move forward and charges will be filed against some of these bad actors. Investigations take time, so it is hard to say when that will happen. If and when charges are filed, we will work to communicate this information,” concluded Ellzey.
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.
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.
*About the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force
Understanding the large-scale fraud challenges facing the country, the U.S. Department of Justice National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force was created to investigate numerous fraud schemes targeting the unemployment insurance programs of state workforce agencies. The department’s leadership has been crucial in organizing and focusing the whole of federal law enforcement on this important issue, including leveraging the capabilities and resources of the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center and by hiring additional prosecutors to investigate and charge these schemes.
**About the Integrity Data Hub
The Integrity Data Hub was created by the National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ (NASWA). The hub provides critical cross-matching functionality for all states who opt in and allows collaboration and the sharing of information to detect and prevent UI fraud in one robust system.