The state of Maine plans to pause unemployment benefits for 48 hours this week, in an effort to combat fraud.

More people than ever are currently collecting unemployment benefits, because of business closures and layoffs, due to the pandemic. And Department of Labor officials say that's causing an uptick in imposter fraud, a trend that's being seen across the country. Imposter fraud happens when a person's Personally Identifiable Information, or PII, is used illegally to apply for unemployment benefits.

Hackers will use the PII, stolen from outdoor data breaches or other illicit means, to create fraudulent claims, hoping the person whose information they stole never notices. This is not only dangerous to the person whose identity they stole but also to the employers who fund the payment of benefits through taxes.

So, the Maine Department of Labor has announced that it will temporarily pause benefits for 48 hours this week, and then reinstate its normal 10-to-14 day processing time for initial unemployment claims. During the early days of the pandemic in Maine, this wait period was shorted to seven days, in order for the DOL to respond to the unprecedented number of demands from people who suddenly found themselves out of work. During this 48 hour shutdown, DOL officials will investigate the system and work to prevent fraud by further enhancing its security. Maine has also joined a state-federal task force to detect and prevent fraud.

If you believe that someone else has used your information to file a fraudulent unemployment application, notify the Maine Department of Labor immediately.