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VEC investigating unemployment fraud after some report unauthorized banking changes

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Several Virginians on unemployment are looking for answers after some accounts were apparently compromised. 

The problem prompted the Virginia Employment Commission to disable certain online services on Friday as the agency investigated fraud.

In an interview on Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam’s Chief Workforce Advisory Megan Healy told 8News that the state is still trying to figure out what happened and how many people were impacted. 

While unemployment fraud is not a new or unique problem for Virginia, Healy said there was an uptick in reports last week. In response, the VEC suspended online filing of initial claims and transferred those applications to a call center. She said the goal is to prevent further fraud on the front end. 

According to VEC Spokesperson Joyce Fogg, initial Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and regular unemployment claims must be called in, though weekly claims can still be filed online.

Desha Harris from Prince William County says she has been waiting for an outstanding issue to be resolved since September without pay. So she was shocked when she received a Facebook message from someone in Strasburg, Virginia, saying that they received correspondence on her unemployment claim in the mail. 

“I’ve never been to Strasburg. I don’t know anyone in Strasburg,” Harris said. “So that kind of caught me off guard to know that my address was changed to a place I have no record of.” 

Harris did some digging and found out that her banking information had also been altered without her permission. Luckily, she was able to fix the problem before her payments were released. 

“My back-pay, if it is approved, will go back to September. That’s a lot of money someone was going to end up with had I not checked,” Harris said. 

While the issue is resolved for now, Harris said she’s frustrated that the VEC didn’t flag the issue sooner. 

“The lack of communication is what it is so bothersome and the lack of accountability on their part because this was going on for a very long time before they even made an announcement about it,” Harris said. 

Ebonie Snow, a claimant from Hampton, said she encountered a similar problem when she tried to file for an unemployment extension back in January. As of Wednesday morning, she said she was still waiting for the issue to be resolved and for her payments to resume. 

“I am a single mother so now it has caused me to have to go get food stamps and assistance from the Department of Social Services,” Snow said. “I truly feel like it was an inside job because no one has my social and no one has my pin. Who would have that kind of information to do that?” 

Healy said the VEC is actively investigating possible…

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