BAR HARBOR — More than two dozen employees of Mount Desert Island businesses have been affected by identity theft related to the state unemployment system, police said this week.
In these cases of “imposter fraud,” scammers use personal information to illegally file for unemployment benefits in someone else’s name.
Victims discover their name and information have been used when they apply for benefits themselves, or when the Department of Labor contacts the employer to confirm that the personhas been laid off.
That’s what happened at some local businesses in the last week. At Mount Desert Island Hospital, Bar Harbor’s second largest employer, officials began looking into theproblem when another local business alerted them it could be happening here.
“Our Human Resources and Internet Technology Department investigated and shared an alert with employees advising that they secure their personal information and change their passwords in the interest of caution,” hospital spokesperson Oka Hutchins said.
“On Monday, May 25, our internal weekly unemployment verification report showed some suspect employees. Our HR department notified the employees and recommended that they secure their personal information and change their passwords. We also notified the Maine Department of Labor, the Bar Harbor Police Department and our legal counsel.”
The Department of Labor announced Tuesday that it is temporarily pausing benefits for 48 hours this week. It’s also reinstating the standard 10- to 14-day processing time for initial unemployment claims in order to investigate andprevent fraud and further enhance the security of the unemployment system. That processing time had been expedited to seven days in response to the unprecedented demands of the COVID-19 crisis.
The department is working with financial institutions to find suspicious accounts, reviewing system changes to increase fraud detectionand blocking web addresses linked to fraud in Maine and other states.
“Although perhaps not surprising, it is outrageous that criminals are capitalizing on the current emergency to file fraudulent unemployment claims using stolen identity information,” Halsey Frank, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine, said in a news release.
Anyone who believes someone else has used their information to file a fraudulent unemployment application is asked to notify the Department of Labor at maine.gov/unemployment/idtheft/.