UI fraud still too big to handle

As nearly 1 in 10 Rhode Islanders knows firsthand, the devastating economic toll of COVID-19 has gone beyond lost jobs and shuttered businesses. There’s also the flood of fraudulent unemployment claims that the R.I. State Police told PBN still number about 400 daily.

That’s down from the highs of 1,000 a day during the height of the pandemic but still too many to easily handle.

Lt. Matthew Salisbury, who heads the financial crimes unit for the state police, conservatively estimates at least 96,000 residents have had fraudulent unemployment claims filed in their names since the pandemic hit last spring.

The state so far has reclaimed $3.5 million that was paid out in fraudulent claims. That’s 7.5% of the $47.1 million paid on fake unemployment claims in the last 15 months.

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While the state continues to upgrade its technology to catch fraudsters, Rhode Islanders can take some solace in knowing the unemployment trust fund remains healthy.

Federal funding thankfully has covered most of the fraudulent payments.

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