GRAND FORKS, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Federal investigators say an international crime ring is targeting several state unemployment offices with fraudulent claims costing taxpayers millions.
North Dakota is one of those states impacted with several schools across the state victimized by fraud.
In the Valley, we’ve confirmed that Grand Forks Public Schools had three cases where someone who’s currently employed had a claim filed fraudulently.
According to a spokeswoman, Grand Forks Public Schools’ human resources caught the discrepancy.
“We're just so overwhelmed and we don't have the necessary people to detect the fraud like we should,” Bryan Klipfel, the executive director of Job Service North Dakota, said.
Klipfel said there’s an active investigation to determine the scope of the fraud and the cost to taxpayers.
Yet, the agency said it believes the number of fraud cases is low.
“Anytime you have a lot of money that can be distributed, there's always going to be those who will try to take it illegally,” Klipfel said.
According to Job Service, it has not slowed down the number of claims it is processing due to the fraud.
Since mid-March, the agency has processed more than 79,000 claims. Last year, it only processed 21,000 claims.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the coronavirus pandemic has turned us into sitting ducks for criminals.
“Number one, we are socially isolated. Number two, we are financially and emotionally vulnerable. Number three, we are spending more time online. And number four, we are distracted,” Bao Vang, communication specialist for the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, said.
Vang said you should be extra vigilant in protecting your private information online and offline.
“[They're] hacking us and our accounts. They're putting malware into our computers. They're phishing. They're swiping our credit card information,” Vang said.
For business owners and employees, the BBB encourages them to be wary of opening unknown emails with questionable links.
According to the North Dakota Department of Instruction, it was notified that a large number of public school employees were impacted, yet it couldn’t provide us with a number.
If you’re a victim of unemployment fraud, we’d like to hear your story. Please reach out to our Whistleblower Hotline at 701-237-6576.