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La. stops, delays some unemployment payouts amid wave of fraud

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Workforce Commission is reviewing thousands of claims for unemployment over concern of fraudulent activity.

As the state steps up its verification, it warned Wednesday, some people awaiting unemployment benefits may notice a delay in payments. Additionally, people applying for unemployment will now be asked to provide identity verification documents.

During the verification process, some people may be asked to upload identification items again, LWC said.

Already, more than 160,000 claims have been stopped that are believed to have been filed fraudulently.

A November 2 On Your Side investigation found in one case, a man’s identity was stolen and was wrongfully paid unemployment benefits.

Later, after being laid-off, he needed unemployment assistance and was having trouble accessing help since someone using his stolen identity was withdrawing unemployment.

"It's frustrating to say the least," Drew Enlund told Brittany Weiss in mid-November. "There's got to be millions upon millions of dollars of fraud in this state alone."

LWC said at the time, it was working to resolve the issue with Enlund’s stolen identity and subsequent fraudulent, first payout of unemployment assistance.

In the last two weeks, the unemployment office said it received 32,000 claims – a red flag. LWC said many of those claims are being “rigorously reviewed for validity” over concerns of fraud.

“Increased fraudulent activity is occurring nationwide, and Louisiana is not an exception,” LWC said in a statement Wednesday.

 “Our office remains conscientious in detecting and combating fraud,” said LWC Secretary Ava Dejoie. “We are tracking this data to identify any potential fraudulent claims that may have been filed. We apologize for any delay or inconvenience this issue may bring to our Louisiana families and workers, especially entering the holiday season.”

 LWC halted all payments on new claims filed after or on November 5, 2020. All new claimants will receive an email requesting further identity verification.

“Please note the LWC will never contact you and ask for your personal, private information,” Dejoie said. “If you receive a call, email, text, social media message, or other communication seeking information such as your username, password or full Social Security number, do not provide it. We will never ask you for this information,” the agency warned. It said, though, it may request verification be uploaded directly to HiRE accounts at www.louisianaworks.net/hire.

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