Scammers using info stolen from insurance websites to file false unemployment claims

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Those with the New York State Department of Labor said scammers are using insurance websites to steal people's driver's license numbers in order to file fraudulent unemployment claims.

The benefit money is then funneled directly into the scammer's bank account.

Danielle Sofia, of Oyster Bay, said earlier this month her mother received a letter from New York State approving her claim from December for unemployment. Her mother never applied for unemployment.

"She was terrified," Sofia said. "The first thing she thought about was there was going to be tax implications on unemployment that she never received."

Sofia said about a week later her mother got a letter from Liberty Mutual informing her that her auto insurance policy was going to be canceled for non-payment. Her mother never applied nor purchased a Liberty Mutual auto policy.

Liberty Mutual confirmed to Eyewitness News that on March 11 the company became aware that scammers used the company's auto insurance policy quoting system to purchase unauthorized policies and procure from those policies consumer's driver's license numbers.

"They're giving out private information to people they may think are applicants for policies or policy holders at that point, but they shouldn't be. There has to be additional security," said Long Island attorney Ken Mollins.

"As soon as we discovered this criminal cyberattack, we immediately stopped it from continuing, began an investigation and canceled the unauthorized policies," said Liberty Mutual spokesperson Gina Anderson.

Anderson said Liberty Mutual is offering all affected customers 12 months of complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services.

Anderson did not specify how many people Liberty Mutual believes were affected by the data breach. She said Liberty Mutual has now hidden driver's license numbers in all online accounts.

"The security and confidentiality of consumer information is our top priority," Anderson said.

Those with the New York State Department of Labor said they have identified during the pandemic more than 521,000 false unemployment claims and have prevented $6.4 billion from going out the door.

Those with the Department of Labor would not reveal how much money has been paid through fraudulent unemployment claims, but said the Department will work to recoup as much of the money as possible.

The Department would also not account for the three months that passed between the time of Sophia's mother's fraudulent unemployment claim application and the receipt of the letter earlier this month informing her of the claim. The Department said it would not discuss any specific case, including whether the money was paid out to the scammer.

"Our team is using technology, including artificial intelligence and other sophisticated techniques, to identify fraud as quickly as possible and stop these criminals in their tracks," the Department said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

Click here to report a false unemployment claim with the New York State Department of Labor.

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