More than 16% of the New Jersey workforce remains unemployed because the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

As bona fide unemployment insurance claims continue to rise, so too do fraudulent ones filed by people trying to scam the system to collect as much as $713 a week.

“By our estimates, we’ve stopped approximately 100,000 fraudulent claims at the door since the pandemic began, which would have represented about $1.4 billion in fraudulent claims,” said Rob Asaro-Angelo, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

He said an elite team of anti-fraud specialists are focused on these schemers.

“I can’t discuss our specific anti-fraud measures; I don’t want to tip off would-be criminals. But our fraud detection tools are many. They’re evolving all the time,” he said.

In the past, anti-fraud efforts were focused on employees falsely claiming unemployment. Now, the biggest problem is identity theft.

“There’s been major breaches, whether it be credit reporting agencies, credit card companies, so now a claimant’s personal information is out there and it’s accurate, so it’s a little bit different than we’ve dealt with in the past," he said.

The certification process that’s used, the questions that are asked, are focused on establishing whether someone really is who they claim to be.

Asaro-Angelo stressed the Labor Department’s systems have not been breached and remain secure.

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He said employers have become strong allies in the fight against fraud “mainly because our system is set up so that employers are alerted when somebody, one of their former employees, is filing an unemployment claim."

“They’ve been the ones who most often are tipping us off that they’ve received an unemployment claim from a worker who is still working, or who never worked for them.”

Asaro-Angelo said employers should always review quarterly unemployment notifications and notify the Labor Department immediately if they see something suspicious.

He also said it is not a good idea to share personal information on Facebook or other social media sites.

“We see people on there posting information about their own claim, which they should definitely not be doing because a fraudster can take that information and use that to try and file a claim in their name or on their behalf," he said.

He noted the Labor Department works with the U.S. Department of Labor, the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and the Division of Criminal Justice to crack down on unemployment insurance fraud.

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