Officials discuss effort to combat increase in unemployment fraud

During today’s press briefing, Governor Tate Reeves was joined by Jackie Turner, the Executive Director of the Department of Employment Security, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst to discuss how officials are combatting unemployment fraud. 

Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in recent months. With that, Governor Reeves said that scammers across the country, and in Mississippi, are taking advantage of the current situation and filing fraudulent claims.

“Unemployment systems across the country are being attacked with false claims, Mississippi’s certainly has been. These are often sophisticated networks of criminal hackers who will take your information, apply for unemployment and then reap your benefits,” Reeves said. “It can have serious consequences for you, and obviously it can have serious consequences for the system.”

Governor Reeves went on to say that as the state takes measures to prevent fraud, you need to closely guard your personal information. 

In Mississippi, over $1 billion has been dispursed through the state trust fund and CARES Act funding, according to Turner. She stated that as the state quickly worked to get benefits to Mississippians in need in the midst of a crisis, a bit of fraudulent activity was able to get through. 

MDES outlines the following steps to take if you believe you are a victim of fraud. 

  1. File a police report with your local police or sheriff’s department and 
  2. Download Complete the identity Theft Affidavit from the Attorney General’s office (click here to download).
  3. Within seven (7) calendar days, email the following documents to MDES at safe@mdes.ms.gov: 

– Police Report

– Identity Theft Affidavit

– Driver’s license or state-issued picture ID

– Social Security card

If you receive a debit card email a legible copy of the front and back of the card to safe@mdes.ms.gov. Destroy the card immediately to prevent activation.

You will continue to receive correspondence from MDES until the cancellation process is complete.

“We will prosecute this to the fullest extend of the law,” Hurst warned. 

The U.S. Attorney mentioned that his office has expertise in this area following the surge in fraudulent unemployment claims made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

As for potential penalties, Hurst explained that ID theft, money laundering, wire fraud and other crimes could result in a wide range of sentences if convicted.