A New England insurance employee who recently transferred to Central Florida a few weeks ago is the fourth known victim of an apparent scheme to apply for unemployment benefits with the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) using stolen Florida identifications.
Cheryl Poirier told News 6 she had just seen the station’s reporting of three Florida women who had received benefit notices from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and wanted to add her case to the evidence in the jobless claims mystery.
“I was shocked, completely shocked, " Poirier said. “I can’t believe that people would even do this.”
Poirier said she had been working remotely in Florida for the Ora Andrews Insurance Company while she waited to get her state insurance license.
Her employer based in Norton, Massachusetts, sent her an email on June 31 that asked, “Did you apply for unemployment benefits?”
“I’m mad,” she said. “I was just hoping they’d be able to figure out why this is happening.”
Poirier said she recently wired funds from the closing of her home in Taunton, Massachusetts and that might explain how her identity was intercepted.
“My attorney told me how dangerous it was because there was so much fraud, “she said.
Melissa Armel, a school teacher in the Orange County school district for the past 25 years, told News 6 she was “very shocked” to read the notice from the DUA that arrived at her home in late June.
The notice indicated she had applied for unemployment benefits on June 22 prompting her to immediately file a fraud alert with the state of Massachusetts.
A Titusville woman who asked not to be identified received a notice that she applied for Massachusetts unemployment benefits in late May.
She told News 6 she did apply for and is receiving benefits from Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity but that she never applied for benefits in New England.
“I never worked for Massachusetts, never visited there, not even when I was a child,” she said.
Monica DaSilva, an employee with a Disney-area hotel restaurant, was the first to report the Massachusetts unemployment scheme.
She is convinced the security breach that saw 98 Social Security numbers accidentally sent by a DEO employee to a third- party company could be the explanation as to how her personal data was used in another state’s unemployment system
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has been investigating bogus applications by impostors in her state but these are the first known cases involving stolen identities from Florida.
To date, News 6 has reported that four women in Central Florida have received notification of benefits each for the full amount provided for 39 weeks.
Poirier said that the unemployment verification sent to her employer said she had filed a jobless claim on June 7.
Chris Hadnagy, an expert in security data breach cases, said the dark web is being tapped to provide crucial personal information to illegally file for unemployment benefits.
Hadnagy told News 6 there are thousands of stolen data files available on the dark web.
“They’re just going out and applying for benefits using your name because they have everything on you,” Hadnagy said. “They fully expect these things to be shut down, they’re just waiting for a couple of checks to clear the account.”
If you believe your identity has been used to apply for benefits in the state of Massachusetts you can file a fraud report here.