CHARLESTON — WorkForce West Virginia has received thousands of fraudulent applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and agency officials are asking West Virginians to be on the lookout and protect their identities.
WorkForce officials say thousands of people, who didn't file an unemployment claim, have been mailed a Key Bank debit card, which is one way PUA unemployment funds are paid out. If someone receives a card and didn't file a claim, it is likely a result of fraud and should be reported immediately.
"There are bad actors out there filing claims in the name of West Virginians and trying to take advantage of the CARES Act program," said Scott Adkins, acting commissioner for WorkForce West Virginia. "What's really unfortunate about this situation is that fraudulent claims slow down the process for folks who've lost their job, need help and have been waiting on an unemployment check."
According to federal officials, states across the country are receiving fraudulent claims made by hackers who are using personal identifying information obtained in the 2017 Equifax data breach, which affected 147 million Americans. Stolen information included names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers and drivers license numbers, which can be used to file an unemployment claim.
"Once a claim is filed, our system automatically sends the claimant a debit card in the mail," Adkins said, adding that WorkForce West Virginia's policy for paying out initial unemployment compensation is preventing scammers from getting money for now.
In June, WorkForce decided to not allow claimants to use a prepaid card or personal account to have their initial benefits deposited.
"On the bright side, these cards don't have any money on them until someone from our office is able to verify the claimant's identity and income," Adkins said.
WorkForce officials are in the process of removing fraudulent claims from the system. West Virginians who did not file a claim for PUA benefits but receive a Key Bank card from WorkForce West Virginia should report the unemployment fraud at workforcewv.gov and destroy the card.
For more information about Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and regular state unemployment compensation, visit workforcewv.gov.