MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced that nearly 400 employees of Nassau County Institutions have had their identities stolen and used to file false unemployment claims.
To date, the identities of 380 individuals working for Northwell Health, Nassau County Community College, Hofstra University, the Villages of Valley Stream, East Williston and Herricks, several Nassau County school districts and other smaller organizations and companies have been stolen by the fraud rings, which submitted false claims to the New York State Department of Labor using the stolen identities. These claims can result in weekly unemployment benefits payments ranging from $104 to $504.
The scheme, starting at the beginning of the pandemic in early March, involves claims for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits. Working closely with the NYS Department of Labor and affected employers, the NCDA has been working to prevent much of the payments on the reported fraudulent claims.
There is no evidence that any of the above-listed companies and organizations were hacked.
“Criminals are seizing on a surge in job losses to steal unemployment benefits from employees working for Nassau County organizations and companies,” DA Singas said. “Not only are they stealing identities, but they’re trying to steal money earmarked for people who’ve lost their main source of income. If you think you’ve been victimized, I urge you to contact my office at 516-571-2149.”
New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “It is despicable that criminals would exploit a global pandemic to attempt to defraud our unemployment safety net. I would like to thank Nassau County DA Singas, her office, and other law enforcement agencies from across the state for their partnership in stopping this fraud — and we will continue to aggressively investigate and disrupt these criminal schemes. Thanks to these proactive efforts, we have stopped millions of dollars from falling into the wrong hands, and we will hold those responsible for these crimes accountable.”
Vice President, Chief Security Officer, James A. Romagnoli of Northwell Health said, “As happens to many large corporations and organizations, a, small percentage of employee’s identities have been used to fraudulently obtain unemployment insurance benefits. Our Corporate Security team is working diligently with the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office to have a successful resolution to this fraud and protect our employees. We have a high level of confidence in the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office to successfully resolve this matter and find the persons responsible for this fraud.”
Melissa Connolly, Hofstra University spokesperson said, “Hofstra University continues to cooperate with the Nassau County District Attorney and is grateful to the agency for investigating and coordinating this effort and reaching out to educate and engage the community about this kind of fraud. While the University’s systems were not breached, we were pleased to provide prompt cooperation to the District Attorney to protect our employees and prevent further fraud from occurring.”
Lindsey Angioletti, Nassau Community College spokesperson said, “Nassau Community College has been working very closely with the Nassau County District Attorney and State agencies to mitigate the fraud situation. Protecting the personal information of our employees is of utmost importance. While we have no evidence that the College’s systems have been breached, the College continues to monitor its systems and data. The College appreciates the time and attention given by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and will continue to cooperate closely with the County, and all appropriate agencies, in an effort to provide all of our employees the information they need to protect themselves from this type of fraud occurring in the future.”
The pattern of fraudulent claims is the work of one or more organized rings, which tend to target employees at the executive, managerial, or professional level of their respective organizations, because those people tend to earn more money and would therefore receive more unemployment benefits. Those employees would also probably still be employed, not having applied for benefits themselves and almost guaranteeing no duplication of claims between the real person and the fraudster.
Many victims didn’t know they had been affected until they received a letter from the NYS Department of Labor indicating that “their claim” for unemployment benefits had been approved. Some victims subsequently received a debit card loaded with unemployment benefit funds. In some cases, debit cards were sent in the names of the victims to addresses controlled by fraudsters.
The NCDA asks anyone who thinks they may have been a victim of this pandemic unemployment benefit scheme to contact the Financial Crimes Bureau at 516-571-2149.
The NCDA and NYS Department of Labor are investigating these fraudulent claims whether a payout has occurred or not.
Affected employees, who are victims of identity theft, are advised to immediately place a free fraud alert with any one of the three national credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
The easiest way to put up a fraud alert is to do so online, using one of the links below:
P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241
PO Box 2002
Allen TX, 75013
P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790.
The Federal Trade Commission also recommends running a free credit report to check for suspicious addresses or accounts. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228 or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form.
New Yorkers can also report Unemployment Insurance fraud to the Department of Labor at https://labor.ny.gov/secure/fraud/report-fraud.shtm