New York is alerting people across the state to beware of unemployment scams emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and the avarice of unscrupulous con artists looking to profit from the misery of others.

As if New Yorkers don’t have enough to worry about.

Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka warned residents Friday about the increasing number of scammers and criminals — likely international criminals — submitting unemployment insurance claims in the names of New York residents, leading to some appearing to owe hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in additional income taxes.

State police from the Livingston barracks reported 17 fraud cases since the start of the pandemic. Lt. John Rivero of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said he has seen a recent increase in the number of false unemployment insurance claims over the late fall and winter months.

The state Department of Labor has identified more than 425,000 fraudulent unemployment claims in less than a year, according to department statistics. The majority of fraudulent claims were caught before money was paid to residents, resulting in $5.5 billion in savings.

Greene County Sheriff Pete Kusminsky said the county has five recent cases, including one reported just a few days ago.

The county’s five recent claims all stemmed from municipal employees. He said each victim of fraud was a county, town, village or school district employee.

Czajka asked all police agencies to refer all such complaints of unemployment insurance fraud to the investigative division of the state Department of Labor.

Any person who receives a document about unemployment benefits from the state Labor Department but did not file a claim should immediately file a report with the department at on.ny.gov/uifraud.

The warnings certainly indicate that fraudulent unemployment claims are a clear and present danger. New Yorkers should heed the warnings before they lose their savings and even personal information to a confidence scheme. We’re struggling with a pandemic. Don’t become a victim of a different kind.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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