Scammers using names/SS numbers of the dead to try and collect unemployment benefits

Jennifer Lewke
Updated: February 09, 2021 06:31 PM
Created: February 09, 2021 05:48 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Since a News10NBC In-Depth investigation on scammers using stolen names and Social Security numbers to file for unemployment benefits, we’ve heard from dozens more of you who are victims. The problem is so massive that even people who’ve long passed are being used as a front to scam the system.

Mary Rhinehart lived with her best friend, Shar, in Rochester.

“Recently, I started getting information in the mail for her… somebody was applying for unemployment in her name but she died 8 years ago? I was shocked,” Rhinehart told News10NBC.  

The scammer is using Shar’s name and Social Security to file for unemployment benefits from the New York State Department of Labor.

“I tried to report it as fraud, I left a message and I've gotten nowhere, no one has called me back,” Rhinehart says and the letters keep coming, “this is been bothering me, yeah, she's gone but nobody has a right to do this to her,” she said.

It doesn’t look like Shar’s scammer has gotten any money at this point but a simple cross-check of Social Security numbers with death records could and should have prevented this long before the state started mailing letters.

On Monday, News10NBC showed you how the NYSDOL is paying out benefits to scammers posing as members of our community who are alive and well, but had no idea.

“They said, well someone is using your social security number to draw unemployment and it looks like they’ve gotten 13 weeks,” Brenda Kavanough said.

Kavanough had spent months trying to prove she didn’t make the claim and just when she thought it was finally cleared up, she got a 1099 tax form from NYSDOL.

“(It said) 12,643 that I had received in unemployment compensation and I went oh my gosh, how do I deal with this,” she said.

Congressman Tom Reed (R-23) is stepping in to try and help those who’ve become victims. He and a handful of other members of Congress wrote a letter to the IRS, urging the agency to give victims more time to get corrected 1099 forms.  

In an email, a Spokeswoman for NYSDOL said the department has a rigorous application and screening process including checks by multiple state agencies but it couldn’t disclose exactly what checks are done because it would give fraudsters a roadmap to beating the system.


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