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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Oahu man’s stolen identity used in false jobless claim

Question: I am one of the unfortunate people who had an Unemployment Insurance claim filed fraudulently using my name and Social Security number. I called the three credit bureaus to freeze my credit line and attempted to call the UI Department at 586-8947 but could never get through. Is there anything else I am supposed to do? This claim was brought to my attention by my HR department where I work and they asked me if I filed for UI and I told them I definitely did not.

Answer: You called the correct number to reach the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ special activities unit, but as of Friday afternoon there was no way to leave a message. So people doing as the DLIR has instructed — calling that number to report imposter claims — could only hope that someone would pick up the phone. No one did in your case, despite your repeated attempts.

This is no minor concern, as Hawaii’s unemployment office is among those apparently being targeted by Scattered Canary, a Nigerian cybercrime ring that allegedly has stolen millions of dollars from other states’ unemployment funds, according to the California-based cybersecurity firm Agari Data Inc. The ring uses identities stolen in earlier data hacks, such as the 2017 Equifax breach, Agari said. It first detected fraudulent claims being filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in Hawaii on May 17, according to the company’s email security blog, which can be found on its website, agari.com.

Hawaii’s DLIR was alerted May 14 by the U.S. Secret Service that such fraud might occur and has taken steps to prevent it and track it down, Bill Kunstman, the department’s spokesman, said Friday. He declined to disclose specific tactics for security reasons, but said DLIR is working with the Hawaii Bankers Association to identify suspicious accounts. It’s too early to say how much money, if any, has been stolen from Hawaii, he said.

With your permission, we shared your query with Kunstman, so rest assured that the department is aware of your situation. As for others in the same boat, Kunstman said a message recorder would be set up for 586-8947 and that notifying the department of potential fraud by email also is an option.

Anyone else affected can send a note to dlir.director@hawaii.gov; put “Fraud Alert” in the subject line. In the email, briefly explain what happened and include your name and phone number.

It’s equally important for employers — who are tasked with confirming employees’ claims — to be on the lookout for false claims, and in a timely manner. Your alert employer — the University of Hawaii — may have prevented the false claim from being paid by determining right away that you hadn’t filed it.

The DLIR said Hawaii employers can help thwart fraud by electronically filing wage data and Electronic Lower Earnings Reports through the unemployment insurance web application at uiclaims.hawaii.gov. The web application is secure, free and easy to use, according to the department, which directs employers to bit.ly/2X fzjMz for more information.

Kunstman said a false claim filed in your name without your knowledge would not prevent you from receiving unemployment benefits in the future, should you need them.

He also said that the additional measures being taken to thwart cybercrime may slow down processing of legitimate claims, which is unfortunate news for the tens of thousands of out-of-work Hawaii residents who are still waiting for unemployment benefits.

Mahalo

Many thanks to the person who found my wallet in City Mill and turned it in to the cashier, untouched, without even leaving his name. At the time, I felt like my whole life was in that wallet and I remain incredibly grateful to the breathtakingly honest individual who turned it in. You have restored my faith in humankind! Mahalo, mahalo, mahalo! — A reader


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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