SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A new statewide task force focused on fighting unemployment insurance (UI) benefit fraud in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is encouraging Georgians to report suspected UI fraud.
The Georgia Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force’s mission is to combat fraud schemes targeting the UI benefits program, which is funded by both the federal and the state governments and is administered by the Georgia Department of Labor.
According to the Department of Justice, during the pandemic, fraudsters have been a part of multiple fraud schemes following the passing of the CARES Act. The Georgia UI Fraud Task Force has worked to collect evidence, offer guidance, refer cases for federal prosecution, and more.
Representatives from agencies including the Georgia Department of Labor, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), Georgia’s Office of the Attorney General, FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General and all three of Georgia’s U.S. Attorney’s Offices serve on Georgia’s UI Fraud Task Force.
“Every dime of taxpayer money diverted into the pockets of scam artists is less money available to help citizens who truly need assistance during difficult times,” said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “We’re confident that with the vigilance of our law enforcement partners, we will identify and shut down those who would steal from these programs.”
“The sole purpose for unemployment insurance is to support people suffering during this unprecedented time in our nation’s history. It is unconscionable that individuals are corrupting the unemployment insurance system by essentially stealing benefits from our neighbors who are most in need at this time,” said Charlie Peeler, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia. “My hope is that this task force will support law enforcement’s ongoing efforts to quickly identify scammers and bring them to justice, while protecting the integrity of the unemployment benefit system.
Georgians are encouraged to be careful when receiving emails promising “easy money” or unsolicited online requests to open personal bank accounts and share account numbers online. The Department of Justice says elders and prior victims of identity theft or email compromise are especially vulnerable targets of these schemes.
“At a time when many American citizens have lost their jobs, or are temporarily out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is disheartening to think that anyone would fraudulently take advantage of the government funds they deserve,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “We will fight this criminal behavior, along with our many partners in law enforcement, to stop anyone who attempts to profit off the backs of those in need.”