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Virginians can't file new claims for unemployment benefits online as VEC investigates fraud

Unemployed workers report their banking and personal account information had been changed without their knowledge. VEC is investigating fraud and identity theft.

NORFOLK, Va. — The Virginia Employment Commission is not currently letting people file unemployment claims online after disabling its system for a fraud investigation.

Some unemployment recipients reported their VEC bank account, payment and personal information were changed without their knowledge or permission. These claimants said they stopped receiving benefits after noticing the change.

On its homepage, the VEC is asking claimants who believe they may be a victim of "identity theft for your unemployment insurance claim" to report fraud on the VEC website.

Multiple claimants shared emails with 13News Now in which a VEC representative told the claimants someone else filed a new unemployment claim using their personal information.

A VEC spokesperson responded to questions from 13News Now, in part, with the following statement:

"The online initial claims filing access is being limited out of an abundance of caution. Customers can call the call center if they need to file a new claim. VEC has staff available from its third-party contractor to handle these calls. There are a limited number of new claims at this time because of the strong demand for workers and large number of open jobs. We are continuing our investigation and we take all concerns regarding fraud very seriously."

The VEC first disabled online claims on Friday. At that point, a VEC spokesperson said there was "no evidence" VEC servers or data were compromised or hacked.

Zina Green, one of many Virginians waiting on a VEC agent to resolve an “outstanding issue” with her claim, described contacting the commission for unemployment help as a "constant headache" in an interview with 13News Now on Monday.

“There’s something wrong on the unemployment end that all of these people are having these issues," Green said.

The VEC instructed Green, and now people looking to file a new unemployment claim, to call the call center for assistance. However, Green and others say they have problems reaching a representative.

“I get a voicemail or I’m able to leave a message and I never get any kind of calls back," she said. "I keep calling my claim in but I’m still at a loss because they’re not doing anything."

Other Virginia unemployment claimants told 13News Now on Monday that they were having new difficulties filing continued or weekly claims for unemployment benefits over the phone, but a VEC spokesperson said she was unaware of any problems with that system.