SYRACUSE — The New York State Department of Labor is using new tools and strategies to help identify unemployment fraud. This comes at a time when unemployment benefits are higher than usual because of the pandemic.
As the economy reopens, some employers have told us they can’t find workers with some asking for $22 an hour in order to get them off unemployment.
Derrick Hogan, Partner at Tully Rinckey, says, “That is a very fine line and some people if it came down to an investigation I think some people might get in trouble for that.”
New York State has identified $1.1 million fraudulent unemployment benefit claims during the pandemic.
Hogan says one form of fraud is someone claiming they work zero hours a week but are actually collecting a paycheck.
He also says while on unemployment you must be actively looking for work.
I asked Hogan, “Can you turn down jobs then if you’re looking for a certain opportunity, and do you have to take the first job that is offered to you?”
“If you were making X amount of money a year or week and you are offered the lowest paying job, that’s not necessarily considered trying to defraud the system, it should be comparable paying jobs to what you were making before,” said Hogan.
It can also be a cause for investigation if you are only applying to jobs drastically different than where you were working before. For example, a waiter applying to be a CEO.
Hogan says getting caught for unemployment fraud during the pandemic could be even worse than before COVID.
“I would also imagine if I’m a prosecutor or a judge I am going to look at that in an unfavorable light,” said Hogan. “As opposed to maybe pre-pandemic where yes, it’s still wrong and punishable and you can be arrested for it but I think they would give a little more scrutiny now because the pandemic and the hardship its caused to so many individuals.”
If caught for unemployment fraud you can be charged with grand larceny and likely have to pay back the money.