The Montana Department of Labor and Industry is alerting residents to new fraud schemes that target unemployment insurance programs that have expanded due to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Unemployment Administrator Paul Martin described how the scams operate.

“What's happened recently is we've noticed fraudsters with criminal intent are going online and finding addresses of property that's up for sale,” said martin. “Because oftentimes the fraud originates from out of state, and they're using these addresses as a Montana address, the intent being that no one's checking that mailbox because it's property up for sale, and so their assumption is that it buys them a little more time before someone discovers the mail that would be associated with fraudulent claim.”

Martin said the state Department of Labor and Industry has been extraordinarily successful in stopping the fraud in Montana.

“In Montana from June 1 2020 through August 31 2020, DLI has stopped just under $189 million in fraudulent payments,” he said. “We have another $185 hundred million marked as possible fraud, so there's a hold on those benefits until our fraud team can investigate them, but it's a significant amount of money, but the vast majority of this getting stopped before it goes out the door.”

Martin pointed out that his agency has not been hacked, but has intercepted the fraudulent activity before it could be completed.

“You know, our unemployment insurance or the Department of Labor and Industry did not get hacked here,” he said. “We're the recipient of stolen identities because of the enhanced benefits this summer. So, all those data breaches that occurred in years past such as Equifax which affected 148 million Americans alone. When they steal data, what they do is they sit on it and they wait for an opportunity. And this pandemic afforded them an opportunity this summer to try to hit UI programs with fraudulent claims.”

The Department of Labor urges those who believe they have been defrauded to contact this website.

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