LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Nevada authorities announced a new task force between state and federal authorities to identify and investigates fake unemployment claims that are becoming more common and impacting many Nevada businesses.
This comes as a Nevada law firm, Craig P. Kenny & Associates, says six of their employees had fraudulent unemployment claims filed on their behalf.
"We have, not once, laid off a single employee or furloughed a single employee," said Kris Ellsworth, business manager at the firm.
"Everyone has been working since day one of the pandemic," said Ellsworth.
Ellsworth says the firm received two strange notices on July 8 from the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, or DETR, indicating two employees at the firm had filed for and received unemployment benefits.
Both of the employees are currently working and had not been laid off from the firm.
The firm contacted DETR about the apparent fraud shortly after.
"The woman I spoke to said it's very widespread and they have thousands of these claims they are dealing with and that they're targeting high-earners," said Ellsworth.
Ellsworth says the thieves are able to provide DETR with correct dates of birth, social security numbers, wage information and place of employment.
Ellsworth says the law firm did not receive a call or any written request for verification of employment before the fake claims were processed and paid.
"It's ridiculous right now, they are not confirming anything, these people who are committing these fraudulent claims, they have the correct wage information, they have the correct social security numbers," explained Ellsworth.
"It's got to be an inside job, or they were hacked and nobody wants to admit it," added Ellsworth.
Just last week, 13 Investigates reported the Nevada Broadcasters Association suffered an identical scam, as well as a public relations firm.
All of the businesses involved have reported trouble getting through to DETR to make the fraud claims.
"It's either busy or it says there's too many people waiting and it just disconnects you," said Ellsworth.
"There's also a website you can go and report the fraud, but you can't even get on the website, it just says it cannot be accessed," added Ellsworth.
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford announced Tuesday a new special task force with the US District Attorney to investigate the fraud claims.
“This Task Force was formed to fight fraud and prosecute those using COVID-19 for their own financial gain,” said Ford. “Thousands of Nevadans have lost their jobs and are facing extreme financial hardship. I urge Nevadans affected by or with information about fraudulent unemployment applications to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and DETR.”
“The COVID-19 Fraud Task Force is committed to protecting the integrity of the unemployment benefits program,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich. “We will continue working closely with our law enforcement partners and colleagues on the Task Force to safeguard the program for Nevadans facing difficult situations who need our help.”
Individuals who believe that someone is fraudulently using their identity to apply for unemployment benefits should file a complaint through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), at www.ic3.gov and to DETR’s Fraud Report Nevada’s COVID-19 Fraud Task Force is working with DETR to assess the problem.
13 Investigates has submitted detailed questions to DETR about the situation and we did not get an immediate response.