Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of a new identity verification tool, ID.me, to fight unemployment benefit fraud and help New Yorkers with bona fide claims verify their identities and receive benefits faster. The Department of Labor has identified over 500,000 fraudulent claims and stopped over $6.4 billion in payments to criminals since the start of the pandemic and distributed over $70 billion in legitimate unemployment benefits to 4.2 million New Yorkers since March 2020.
In addition, the Department of Labor is also bolstering its anti-fraud efforts by launching a new web page to provide New Yorkers with a step-by-step guide for protecting their identity from cyber criminals.
"This global public health crisis has created economic uncertainty for countless New Yorkers. The fact that criminals would use these dual crises as cover to defraud is unconscionable and we're using every tool in our arsenal to stop them," Governor Cuomo said. "We're also taking this opportunity to finetune the UI system and using state-of-the-art technologies to make sure that benefits go to New Yorkers with legitimate claims and expediting the process so individuals and families get the benefits they need faster."
State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "This new ID verification tool and these additional resources add to the Department of Labor's constantly-expanding arsenal of weapons to combat fraud. Every day, we leverage highly experienced investigators, artificial intelligence, and other sophisticated techniques to identify fraud as quickly as possible, stop these criminals in their tracks, and protect New Yorkers' unemployment system."
Previously, New Yorkers who had to provide additional identity documents before their claim could be established were required to submit evidence - including copies of birth certificates, passports, drivers licenses, or other similar documents - online or via fax. The DOL staff would then review each document and verify its authenticity, a manual process that often took weeks to complete. Under the new process, these New Yorkers will receive an email or text message from the Department of Labor, asking them to use ID.me to quickly and easily verify their identity online. This upgrade will be particularly impactful for victims of identity theft who then file legitimate unemployment benefit claims themselves and have to prove their identity.
Criminals attempting to defraud the state's unemployment system use real New Yorkers' identities - likely stolen during previous data breaches involving third party institutions like banks, insurance companies, and major employers - to file fraudulent claims and illegally collect benefits in the name of individuals who are not unemployed. The Department has launched a new resource to help New Yorkers safeguard themselves against identity theft and predatory cyber criminals.
This new system will support the DOL's already-aggressive Office of Special Investigations, which has been fighting fraud throughout the pandemic, identifying and stopping more than 521,000 fraudulent claims, preventing more than $6.4 billion from falling into the hands of fraudsters. The vast majority of fraudulent claims have been caught before a single cent is paid.
Anyone who receives a monetary determination letter from the Department of Labor but did not apply for unemployment benefits should immediately file a report at on.ny.gov/uifraud. Those who file reports with the Department of Labor online will not be required to take any further steps and will automatically have any fraudulent charges cleared from their account.
New Yorkers who suspect they have been a victim of identity theft are encouraged to take steps to proactively protect themselves, including those listed at www.identitytheft.gov.