PA Treasury to Temporarily Pay All PUA Claims by Check to Combat Recent Fraud

Change is in response to recent multi-state fraudulent activity with Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims


Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella announced today that the department is taking steps to further safeguard funds intended for unemployed Pennsylvanians, at the request of Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). This is in response to widespread reporting of fraudulent activity in at least 8 states, including the Commonwealth, primarily focused on the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. Starting today, the department will issue payments for all PUA-related claims by paper check, delivered to the claimant’s home address on file. This will include payments for PUA-associated Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) claims. No other form of unemployment compensation or associated FPUC payments will be affected, at this time.


This short-term measure substantially increases the likelihood that payments will go only to individuals who have properly applied, and been approved, for benefits. While necessary to combat the fraudulent activity, check payments delivered by mail often arrive later to the recipient than electronic deposits. Individual claimants should note that mail delivery times vary widely across the Commonwealth, and that checks will typically arrive 3 to 5 business days later than an electronic deposit would. This change in payment method will last up to two weeks, while L&I works to implement new safeguards to enable the resumption of electronic deposits.


The fraud in question is reportedly occurring at a large scale, and involves a scheme in which personal identifying information is being used to establish phony bank accounts into which criminals seek to have the state make electronic deposits of unearned PUA benefits. At this time, there is no indication that the stolen personal identifying information originated from a Commonwealth agency and is believed to have been obtained from outside sources. Treasury is currently referring an investigation of this matter to appropriate state and federal law enforcement agencies.


“When criminals prey on a program meant to assist folks who are out of work from this pandemic, they’re preying on all of us. It’s despicable, and we will take every action possible to safeguard assistance meant for Pennsylvanians who need it. We have been working closely with the Department of Labor & Industry on this, and will work closely with law enforcement to bring these thieves to justice, and recover any funds intended for our out-of-work friend and neighbors.”


Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Joe Torsella

In some instances, Treasury routinely sends initial payments to recently approved applicants by check—regardless of the payment mode selected by the applicant—in order to accelerate the delivery of the first funding to individuals in need, since the set-up period for electronic payment can take longer. In some cases, checks were received at home addresses of innocent individuals whose identities (including the addresses, which were used in fraudulent applications for benefits) had been stolen, bringing the systematic extent of the fraud to light as many of these individuals reached out to Treasury or L&I, legislative offices, or others, to report receiving payments they had not sought.


Individuals who receive any benefit payments for which they have not been approved should do the following:
An individual who receives a paper check in the mail and did not file for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania should not cash the checks. The checks should be returned to: 


           Department of Treasury Comptroller's Office
           Attn: Mark Accorsi
           Room 113, Finance Building
           Harrisburg, PA 17120 


Anyone who receives a direct deposit and did not file for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania should not use the funds. The funds should be returned to: 


           Department of Labor & Industry
           651 Boas St., Room 500
           Harrisburg, PA 17121 


Pennsylvanians who receive unemployment compensation benefits that they did not file for are encouraged to check whether their identity has been compromised; and take advantage of free credit reports offered by TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian through April of 2021, at AnnualCreditReport.com.


Labor and Industry telephone numbers:

  • 888-313-7284 – standard Unemployment Compensation
  • 855-284-8545 – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Treasury Unemployment Compensation phone number:

  • 877-869-1956

 

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