The unprecedented rise in unemployment insurance (UI) claims this year due to the pandemic makes it more important than ever for employers and employees to be alert to possible UI fraud. In most UI fraud cases, the apparent claimants are innocent victims of identity thieves who use stolen information to file unemployment claims. Such attempts have become more common this year because the additional $600 per week benefit granted by the federal government from late March through July is a situation too enticing for criminal opportunists to ignore. Although the Vermont Department of Labor (VDOL) tries to confirm the identity of everyone who files for unemployment insurance, instances of fraud inevitably slip through. Each of us needs to be vigilant in monitoring our personal information and reporting any suspicious activity in order not to be taken advantage of this way.
Please note that the VDOL always follows up with claimants by mail, so anyone who has not filed a claim but receives a mailed notice from the VDOL regarding one should contact both their employer and the VDOL immediately to notify them of possible fraud. Notify VDOL online at labor.vermont.gov/UI-fraud or by calling 802-828-4101.
It is also important for employers to check all the charge statements they receive regarding unemployment claims for their organization. We urge members of the VERB Trust’s UI program to scrutinize the quarterly reports that I send and report any suspicious claims to me. I will follow up with Equifax, VERB’s third-party UI administrator, to protest or investigate these claims as appropriate. VLCT members that aren’t in our UI program need to be sure to follow up with the VDOL directly via web or phone. No municipality should be losing money this way!
When reviewing unemployment claim reports, employers must remember that recent state legislation has made unemployment for COVID-19-related reasons legitimate for as long as the pandemic state of emergency is in effect. Employees who are laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19, or who feel they are at substantial risk of infection on the job due to a preexisting condition of their own or someone in their household, or who meet other stipulations specified in Act 91 (signed into law by Governor Scott on March 30) may legitimately be found eligible for unemployment.
Please send any questions you have regarding unemployment fraud or the VERB Trust’s Unemployment Insurance program to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-649-7915, ext. 1965.
Senior VERB Programs Administrator
Risk Management Services, VLCT