Unemployment fraud occurs when a person knowingly and willingly uses misrepresentation, lying, or deceit to collect unemployment insurance benefits. This is a very specific type of white-collar crime that can involve both employers and employees.
Requirements for collecting unemployment vary by state. In most states, employment benefits can only be collected if the person is unemployed, actively seeking work, or has had their hours reduced to less than full-time. If a person makes any misrepresentations in order to collect unemployment or to help someone illegally collect unemployment, they may face legal consequences.
Unemployment fraud can come in many different forms, including:
- Working while collecting unemployment benefits
- Collecting under a false or fictitious name
- Cashing another person’s unemployment check without their permission
- Falsifying reasons for unemployment
- Not actively seeking work while collecting unemployment
- Attempting to collect unemployment benefits from another state in an illegal manner
- Failing to report income and other benefits properly
As mentioned above, a person can also face legal consequences if they assist another person in unemployment fraud. For instance, if the employer takes part in the misrepresentation, they may face penalties as well.
Unemployment fraud can result in various penalties, including criminal fines, jail time, and loss of benefits.
There may be defenses available to criminal charges, depending on the facts of the case. For instance, a person can avoid liability for reasons such as:
- Mistaken identity– Since unemployment fraud is a white-collar crime, a person might be mistaken for another person based off of their name or other information
- Lack of intent– The defendant needs to intentionally use misrepresentation and must be intending to collect unemployment based off of the fraud
- Insufficient evidence– Like any other crime, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt according to sufficient evidence
As mentioned, state laws may vary when it comes to penalties and defenses for unemployment fraud crimes.
Unemployment fraud is a serious crime and can result in strict legal penalties. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer if you are facing unemployment fraud charges. A lawyer can provide you with legal advice and research to help determine what your options are. Also, if you need to attend any meetings or court sessions, your lawyer can be on hand to help represent you during the process.