Maryland Identifies 1.3 Million Fraudulent Unemployment Claims Since Start of Pandemic

More than one million fraudulent employment claims have been filed in Maryland since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the state's Department of Labor.

In a press release Monday, the agency announced that over 508,000 fraudulent new unemployment insurance claims have been detected since the beginning of May—bringing the total number of fraudulent claims to 1.3 million.

Governor Larry Hogan called the number "astonishing."

"With fraudulent activity rampant in unemployment insurance programs across the country, Maryland has consistently adapted and added new security measures to prevent, detect and report fraud," Hogan said in a statement.

The amount of false claims being filed skyrocketed in late May and early June. The fraudulent filings peaked the week ending on June 5, with 190,016. The last available data showed 139,106 false claims for the week ending June 12.

The state agency said that 92.23 percent of unemployment claims flagged and investigated have been fraudulent.

Maryland 1.3 Million Fraudulent Unemployment Claims
More than one million fraudulent employment claims have been filed in Maryland since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the state’s Department of Labor. In this photo illustration, a person files an application for unemployment benefits on April 16, 2020, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson advised residents to remain vigilant in protecting themselves against scams and identity theft.

"As the economy recovers and states across the country continue to opt out of the federal benefits programs, bad actors are becoming more brazen and aggressive in their attempts to exploit unemployment insurance programs than ever before," Robinson said in a statement.

Dozens of Republican-led states are opting against the additional $300 federal unemployment benefit before it expires in September. This weekend, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming became the latest states to join the growing list.

Hogan announced that Maryland will end the $300 weekly benefit starting in early July. The state will discontinue three other federal programs, including benefits for self-employed or gig workers, and will require those filing for unemployment to show they're actively seeking a new job.

The latest unemployment numbers released by the Maryland Department of Labor showed 14,233 people filed initial unemployment claims in the week ending June 12.

According to preliminary data from the agency, the unemployment rate remained at 6.2 percent in April with 193,112 people claiming benefits.

"While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply," Hogan said in a statement earlier this month. "And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages. After 12 consecutive months of job growth, we look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work."

Newsweek reached out to the Maryland Department of Labor for additional information on the unemployment fraud but didn't receive a response before publication.