Hawaii’s strained unemployment system faces a new threat: Scammers

With thousands in Hawaii unemployed, crooks target the state's unemployment system

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Last week, Ray Boland of Kaneohe received a letter from the state Labor Department, telling him he’s eligible for unemployment benefits of up to $263 a week for a total of 39 weeks.

The problem is, Boland is still working at his federal job and did not file an unemployment claim. He said someone else had filed a bogus claim using his personal information.

“I think that’s pretty low of a person,” he said.

“They’re outright trying to steal as much money as they can. That’s sort of immoral.”

With more than 143,000 Hawaii residents unemployed due to the pandemic, consumer advocates said these scammers are taking money away from the people who need it most.

“These are obviously terrible people who have no consideration for the impact that this has,” said Keali’i Lopez, state director for AARP Hawaii and former director of the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Protection.

“The fact these people are willing to take advantage just shows you they’re willing to do whatever it takes to line their pockets.”

Lopez said the fraud also takes away much-needed resources from the Labor Department, which has to monitor and investigate the fraud.

“Now because of the fraud, there’s probably an extra step where they’re sending letters to people to validate that they actually are filing for unemployment,” she said.

Boland said he immediately reported the bogus claim online with the Labor Department. He also checked his credit, which was unaffected.

He thinks the scammers were able to file the false claim by using his personal information, which compromised several years ago by a data breach.

“I was really saddened by the thought that this ... is keeping money from going to folks who could use it,” he said.

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