HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors has revealed to Hawaii News Now that she is one of the nearly 6,000 people who have been victimized by scammers who targeted the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
“I’m included. I also received a letter, so I’m one of the individuals whose identity has been compromised,” Connors said,
Her office was already investigating the unemployment scam that has resulted in at least $15.8 million being paid out in fraudulent jobless benefits, along with another $76.6 million in payments that have been labeled as “potentially fraudulent.”
PUA is a federally-funded program distributed by the state Department of Labor for gig workers and independent contractors that have been affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.
The state sent letters to those who filed for PUA benefits, to verify their identities, after widespread theft was found across the country.
Chanson Fujioka-Levesque also learned her information was stolen after receiving a letter.
“I used to live with my dad in Wahiawa, and the letter came to his residence, which is my old residence,” said Fujioka-Levesque. “So I wasn’t even aware until he sent me the letter in California, where I live now.”
Fujioka-Levesque followed the instructions on the letter and reported that she never filed for PUA benefits in Hawaii. But she said there wasn’t much guidance on what to do next.
”I spent hours last night trying to figure it out, because there is not many resources that say what to do for this kind of scam,” she said.
Connors had this advice for other victims: “If you are one of the individuals who received a letter, you do need to take additional steps. You have been a victim of a fraud, identity theft in particular.”
“The first thing I did was to freeze my credit, to ensure that no additional access to my credit could be used,” Connors added. She is now watching for any suspicious activity, like purchases.
Her office of investigators and prosecutors are working with federal and county agencies to track down the source of the scams, but this is believed to be part of a large organized crime ring. Recouping the millions the state already paid out might be the only action available.
If you received the letter but did not apply for PUA benefits, report the potential theft by clicking here.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of identity theft, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission.
To check if your email has been breached, click here.
More information about identity theft and PUA can be found here.