Unemployment benefit fraud is a crime. As a result of our nation’s current economic status, there is a record-high number of people on unemployment. The deliberate act of lying about your employment status to claim unemployment benefits is a fraud.
Being charged with unemployment fraud is a serious offense. Both fines and jail time can result if you are convicted of this crime.
Unemployment Benefit Program
People are offered a subsidized income when they are laid off or out of work with the unemployment insurance benefits program (UI). When someone is unemployed for reasons that they can’t control, they can apply for unemployment benefits.
There is a federal unemployment program that guides each state. You should know that each state has its own unemployment benefits insurance program. Which means California may have different unemployment guidelines than New York.
What Is The Work Search Requirement?
Typically, the federal government requires that a person receiving unemployment benefits apply for a certain amount of jobs weekly. Unemployment insurance benefits are only meant to be a temporary relief. The government wants people to actively look for employment.
With the work search requirement, you are instructed to apply for a certain number of jobs each week. The number varies by state. A system collects your data to ensure the government that you are abiding by the UI benefit rules.
Pre Covid-19, you were required to complete a work search entry weekly to continue to receive benefits. Due to Covid-19, the work search requirement has been suspended in most states. Meaning, for a limited amount of time you are not required to submit a weekly work search report to receive benefits. The Covid-19 temporary lift of the work search requirement will eventually be phased out.
Unemployment Insurance Benefit Fraud
When a worker intentionally makes false statements to receive unemployment, this is considered fraud. Also, making inaccurate or false representations in order to receive unemployment benefits is a type of fraud.
Remember, the purpose of unemployment benefits is to serve as a source of income while you look for a new job. When you find a new job, it is mandatory that you report this to the unemployment office.
If you continue to receive unemployment insurance after you receive new employment, this is fraud. There is a requirement to report earnings to your state’s unemployment office. Failure to report earnings in this situation is a crime and you can be charged with unemployment fraud.
Identity Theft & Falsifying Information
Submitting a UI application with false information is against the law. Any misleading information on a UI application is considered fraud.
Any type of identity theft is illegal. For example, you cannot use another person’s name or information to receive UI benefits for yourself. Submitting false information about your employment status, income, work history can lead to fraud charges.
UI Benefit Fraud Charges Legal Defenses
The following are the defenses available in a UI benefit fraud case:
• No Criminal Intent
To be convicted of UI fraud, you must intentionally lie or misrepresent data to the UI office. UI fraud is not done by mistake. It is an intentional crime. Accidentally underreporting income when applying for UI benefits is not considered a crime.
• No Evidence
To be charged with UI fraud, the state has to prove without a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of committing a crime. There must be evidence to prove this. Charges are acquitted if the state does not have enough evidence to prove you are guilty.
UI Benefit Fraud Penalties
Both civil and criminal charges can be associated with UI fraud. A civil penalty will most likely result in being required to pay a fine.
Criminal penalties may include:
• Incarceration (depending on the state laws you can be charged with a misdemeanor or felony)
• Fines (+ restitution)
UI benefit fraud is a serious crime. If convicted, you can expect to either pay a fine, restitution and/or jail time. The government has task forces to monitor UI benefit fraud.
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