WORCESTER (CBS) – From Worcester firehouses, to schools, public works, and the highest offices of City Hall, city employees are dealing with a nightmare on top of the pandemic.
“This happened to me three times,” said Mayor Joseph Petty. He and 1,025 employees have been hit by scammers using their identities to get unemployment payouts.
“I was told that they’d already received $16,000,” said Worcester School Superintendent Maureen Binienda. It has happened to her repeatedly, and to more than 500 school employees. “The amount of fraud claims we’re getting sometimes as many as 40 a day.”
Why Worcester? Human resources Director Dori Vecchio said no one has been able to figure it out. “We have tried to piece the pieces together with our technical services department to see if there is something with the city,” she said. “Very difficult trying to tie it all together.”
The Massachusetts Unemployment Office has a form on its website where victims can report fraud, but getting ahold of a person on the state’s hotline is challenging. Callers go through a series of prompts before being put on hold for long periods of time.
“You get into this endless loop of finding which button to press to actually get a human on the end of the line,” said Sean Jarboe, who’s not a Worcester city employee, but knows the nightmare all too well.
First he got a fraudulent claim in his name in the mail. Then he got laid off. “Pretty frustrating,” he said. When he tried to put in a legitimate claim, he was frozen out. “It just gets pretty convoluted in how many things you have to do to protect yourself once this occurs, and on top of that, you can’t get your own unemployment assistance.”