SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WHSM) -- Massachusetts officials are warning people of a nationwide identity theft scheme targeting the unemployment claim systems of different states.

Officials warn they are seeing fraudulent claims for unemployment assistance coming through the Bay State’s system.

Western Mass News spoke exclusively with a local woman who says she had two fraudulent unemployment claims filed under her name.

When Krystal Davis checked the mail last week - she was surprised to find she was approved for pandemic unemployment benefits.

Surprised because Davis said she never filed for unemployment and still has a job.

"I’m on maternity leave right now but as far as I knew I still had a job," Davis explained.

In a time where thousands of people in Massachusetts are out of work - Davis thought her job was safe.

Caring for her new baby in the wake of the pandemic - that sense of security was shaken when Davis received a letter in the mail from the state.

It said she’d been approved for unemployment benefits and after a frenzied call to her employer, Berkshire Bank...

"He said that there was nothing in their system for me," Davis explained.

Davis dialed up the Mass. Department of Unemployment Assistance.

"They found that both of my names, my maiden name, and my married name had come up with two claims," Davis explained.

Davis also said she was told both claims listed her proper address, but the emails and phone numbers were different, along with the bank information.

"They were not accounts that I've ever had, at banks that I've ever had," Davis noted.

State officials have confirmed they’ve detected illegitimate unemployment claims being filed and they said the fake claims - use personal information stolen during recent national data breaches.

"The secret service was estimating that the losses could be up in the hundreds of millions of dollars," said scamicide.com's editor and Bentley University professor, Steven Weisman.

Weisman runs a website about different types of fraud and he said the coronavirus pandemic is the perfect time to defraud overloaded unemployment departments.

"Hackers are taking advantage of the states trying to process claims right away and not double-checking with the companies themselves that the people have supposedly been working for," Weisman explained.

These letters - approving false applications for unemployment - could delay the legitimate help people are waiting for.

The labor and workforce development secretary said in a statement, saying quote:

“While the program integrity measures we are taking will, unfortunately, mean that some claimants will experience temporary delays in payment, we believe these steps are necessary to respond to this unemployment scam."

"That’s the warning shot. First, you contact unemployment so that you straighten it out, but you also better check your credit report with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus because it also is an indication someone has your social security number," Weisman noted.

For Davis, the feeling of security has been replaced - by more questions.

"A whole bunch of different scenarios - was my identity is stolen? Who was this that would do this? Why would anybody do this?" Davis said.

The Mass. Department of Unemployment Assistance said if you receive a letter similar to Davis and you didn't file a claim, to report it to them immediately.

There's an online form you can fill out here and there you can reach them at 877-626-6800.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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