Maryland unemployment document shows more than 16,000 legitimate claims frozen due to fraud concerns

Fraudsters are still going after your tax dollars trying to scam the system and steal unemployment benefits in Maryland. The schemes have caused at least 16,500 innocent people to have their benefits temporarily frozen.

Since a fraud ring was uncovered in July, Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson says her office is continuing to find fraudulent claims.

“We certainly hope that there will be indictments coming soon, but we do not yet know exactly where these fraud schemes are coming from,” Robinson said Thursday.

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In some cases fraudsters are using stolen information from data breaches. Others aren’t trying too hard.

”We’ve seen documents uploaded that include passports with movie stars pictures on them. Social security cards printed on the Internet,” said Robinson.

She says scammers have gotten away with a “small amount” of money, but most of the fraud was caught in time. According to data obtained through an open records request, the state believes it’s gotten over 100,000 new fraudulent claims since July when nearly 50,000 were uncovered.

But efforts to stop this has meant over 16,000 innocent people had claims temporarily frozen, and according to records, about 16,000 more claims are frozen pending review of additional proof of identity.

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FOX 5 has heard from people in desperate situations and some who say they’ve been waiting since July.

“I’m not aware of any claims that have waited that long,” said Robinson. “But, certainly, I know we have responded to many claimants that you have submitted our way over the past days, weeks and months, and we’d be happy to look into any that you may have that you think deserve our attention.”

It’s been a battle to find out how many legitimate claims were frozen. FOX 5 has been asking the labor department for weeks and tried to get the information from Gov. Larry Hogan at a press conference on August 27.

READ MORE: FOX 5 pushing for answers for Marylanders whose unemployment benefits were frozen

An open records request submitted July 16 was fulfilled Thursday, over a month late.

When asked why she refused to release the data for so long, Robinson said she was advised not to by others involved in the investigation and wanted to wait until it was finalized.

“Honestly, this has been a multi-state and federal/state partnership in this investigation,” she said. “So I’ve been limited, honestly, by certain information I’m able to provide.”

She said an improved Beacon unemployment portal will launch Sunday and a mobile app has gotten good reviews.

In addition to the nearly 16,000 frozen claims pending review, she said there are currently about 30,000 unadjudicated claims.