The Maryland Department of Labor has flagged hundreds of thousands of possibly fraudulent unemployment claims filed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, finding that 82% of those claims were illegitimate.
An initial investigation over the summer exposed over 40,000 claims linked to what authorities said was a “massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise,” while a subsequent audit caught roughly 100,000 more that were suspicious, a department news release said Wednesday.
Of those flagged claims, over 82% had insufficient documentation or had been reviewed and denied, the department said.
The claims uncovered in the first investigation consisted of scammers attempting to use stolen identities to submit counterfeit jobless claims worth $501 million from the state’s unemployment insurance system.
The department said that of roughly 102,000 out-of-state claims that have been classified as potentially fraudulent, 91% have either not uploaded required verification documents or were reviewed and denied. Of the estimated 67,700 in-state fraudulent claims, 69% have either not uploaded documents or the documents were reviewed and denied.
The department said there are currently 9,677, or 5.7%, potentially fraudulent claims, whether in-state or out-of-state, pending manual review and verification, and that numbers could change as its investigation proceeds.
Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said as a result of the investigations, the department has more than doubled its specialists who review and verify claims manually to try to report fraud and reinstate legitimate claims and benefits.
“With bad actors continuing to target the important unemployment insurance funds intended to help those in need, our department has maintained heightened security measures to prevent and detect fraudulent activity,” Robinson said.