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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — WorkForce West Virginia has received 35,000 fraudulent claims for unemployment since June 1.

Gov. Jim Justice and WorkForce West Virginia acting Commissioner Scott Adkins detailed the fraud during Justice’s coronavirus media briefing Friday at the state capitol.

According to Adkins, the fraud is coming through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program that was created the CARES Act. The program provides unemployment benefits for residents who usually aren’t eligible for unemployment like those who are self-employed.

Adkins said the scammers are using personal information obtained earlier this year from national data breaches. He said they’ve been able to track down where some of the fraud is coming from.

“We’ve identified several folks here in the Charleston area who are responsible for some of the fraud and I can tell you those folks are going to be aggressively pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Adkins said.

WorkForce officials met with investigators with the U.S. Department of Justice this week. WorkForce’s fraud unit is actively investigating, Adkins said.

The agency has added a couple of steps to its PUA filing and updating process to make sure a request isn’t fraudulent. Gov. Justice said unfortunately that’s going to slow things down for those who deserve the benefits.

“They’re hurting you that really need to be able to have your applications processed and your dollars coming to you because they are slowing us down,” Justice said.

Adkins said PUA benefits are now only being forwarded by check or key-card. Direct deposit has been eliminated as an option.

The WorkForce toll-free number to report fraud is 1-800-379-1032. The caller should select option six.

WorkForce has distributed $200 million to 24,000 legitimate PUA claimants, Adkins said.

Justice said those responsible for the fraud will be prosecuted.

“I don’t like it. I hope and pray they get their deserve,” he said.

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