But the agency said it was likely that other states would be vulnerable. Michigan has cleared about 220,000 of the 340,000 active claims it stopped paying in late May, but tens of thousands more need to be analyzed, according to state officials. New York identified roughly 9,000 impostor claims, which would have cost up to $160 million.
Pennsylvania initially flagged 58,000 claims, all through its pandemic unemployment system, which covers self-employed workers and others who typically do not receive benefits. The majority of those have been verified as authentic, the state said. It declined to provide additional details, citing an active investigation.
Julia Simon-Mishel, a supervising attorney at the unemployment compensation unit at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, said fraudsters had used stolen personal information to have benefits deposited into accounts they controlled. The state responded by switching to paper checks, she said.
“That has caused significant delays,” she said. “It has been really traumatic for clients who live in neighborhoods where the mail is not secure and not consistent.”
Some applicants have been unable to collect benefits because identity-theft problems from years past continue to haunt them.
“They can’t complete an application — and they are not receiving any money even though they are entitled to it, even though they are on the verge of eviction,” said Laurie Yadoff, director of an economic advocacy and community health project at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, who has worked with several clients with lingering problems.
One of them, Kristina Guzman, tried to file for benefits immediately after she was furloughed in mid-March from her job at a casino near Hollywood, Fla. But she was blocked because someone else had filed in her name nearly six years ago. She told officials back then that it was fraudulent and thought that was the end of it.