Baker says fraud rampant with unemployment insurance

Only 1,000 of 31,000 claims passed screening last week

GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said a relatively small number of state unemployment claims were approved last week because of a screening process designed to weed out a rising tide of fraudulent claims.

The governor said the state received 31,000 applications for unemployment assistance last week, but only 1,000 passed the screening process.

“There’s a tremendous amount of bot-based fraud going on around UI,” Baker said at a Monday afternoon press conference. “Some of these fraudsters are actually paying people to call unemployment offices around the country and advocate for benefits pretending to be somebody they’re not, who’s not in fact actually unemployed.”

Baker said the state’s anti-fraud effort is slowing down the claims process and preventing state officials from obtaining an accurate count of the number of new claims being filed each week.

If people aren’t hearing back about their claims and feel like they have a valid case, Baker urged them to reach out to the unemployment assistance office or his own constituent services office by phone. The state has also published guidelines on how to deal with suspected fraud.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has received hundreds of complaints from across the state regarding unemployment fraud, and is aware of the uptick in complaints from individuals who have been targeted by unemployment fraud scams.

“We’re taking a close look at the claims we’ve received from individuals and from our local, state, and federal partners to determine the sources of the fraud and take appropriate action,” Healey said in an emailed statement.

The state Office of Unemployment Assistance is also dealing with false claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides up to 46 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of a COVID-19-related reason but are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits.

At his State House press conference, Baker also announced the launch of a public awareness campaign calling for increased vigilance in wearing masks, social distancing, and getting tested. The campaign is called “Get Back Mass,” and features people saying what they want to get back to doing once COVID-19 is brought under control.

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Please think about how your actions affect your elderly relatives or those friends or relatives of yours who have pre-existing conditions,” Baker cautioned in another warning about indoor Thanksgiving celebrations.

Baker also said the Abbot BinaxNOW testing program, which was initially deployed in K-12 schools, has been expanded to include visitors to long-term care facilities. All regular staff at nursing and long term care facilities will undergo weekly surveillance testing, which was previously every other week.