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System to catch unemployment fraud saving state millions

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published July 17. 2013 4:00AM
Labor department says $100,000 in claims being flagged every week

An automated system implemented statewide over the past few weeks to prevent unemployment fraud is on track to save Connecticut taxpayers up to $5.2 million annually, the state Department of Labor said Tuesday.

The system, which matches Social Security numbers in filings with those on record with the federal Social Security Administration, flags possible fraud, placing a hold on some payments after a review. Filers then are sent a note asking them to contact the agency or to visit a local Social Security Administration office to verify their information.

So far, according to the Labor Department, about $100,000 in claims each week have been flagged as possibly fraudulent.

"Connecticut is ranked by the federal Labor Department as one of the best states in the country in terms of its success in unemployment insurance fraud detection and prevention, and this newest initiative provides us with an additional tool as we continuously improve the integrity of our benefits program," Labor Commissioner Sharon M. Palmer said in a statement.

Other recent steps taken by Connecticut to reduce fraud and errors include:

• Treasury Offset Program and Department of Revenue Services tax intercepts. These have targeted more than 8,000 people over the first five months of the year, recouping $7.2 million in overpayments.

• An online fraud reporting system at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/BPCU/BenefitsFraud.htm.

• A tip hotline at 1 (800) 894-3490.

• A surveillance program that investigates public tips.

• E-filing garnishments. This electronic process has netted more than $2 million in recoveries annually.

• Fraud-detection software. First implemented in January, this new technology can scan thousands of records to detect suspicious patterns.

"Our goal is to ensure benefits are issued in a fair and proper manner, and used solely for the purpose of assisting those laid off and who need help making ends meet while looking for new employment," Palmer said.

l.howard@theday.com

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