Numerous residents in northern Lancaster County have been victimized by the distribution of employment data, resulting in a series of fictitious unemployment claims, according to Northern Lancaster County Regional police.
Authorities have received “a continuing and escalating series of reports” of personal identities being used to register for unemployment benefits in Clay, Penn and Warwick townships and East Petersburg in recent days, police said in a news release. It was not immediately clear how many people have been affected in the scams.
The latest of these scams was reported by the victim to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) and the human resources department of a previous employer, police said. L&I then urged the person to contact NLCRPD, who told them to monitor their personal accounts, credit cards and other billings for unauthorized transactions.
Scammers can use phishing attempts and leverage social media, text messages and email to lure unsuspecting individuals into providing personal information that they can then use to claim others’ identities, according to the news release.
Recent versions of these scams can involve people being told they have won contests or cash prizes, are eligible for monetary awards by applying for benefits or that they are being offered an alternative or “faster” application to apply for pandemic unemployment benefits (PUA) or regular unemployment benefits.
Police said the ruses are just the latest round of attempts by scammers to use personal information to apply for benefits. An earlier such scam in June resulted in L&I mailing notices to benefits claimants with guidance for what to do if they did not submit PUA applications.
That guidance still applies to people who believe they have been targeted in these latest phishing attempts and scams, police said.
Victims of identity theft are urged to report PUA fraud activity to L&I and to return the money. Doing so will remove the fraudulent payments from being reported as income on the end-of-year 1099G distributions, police said.