Updated

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — More than 550 employees of Worcester have been targeted in a nationwide unemployment insurance benefits scam, city officials say.

The scam involves identity thieves using the victims’ personal information to file claims for unemployment benefits.

The city received about 40 fraudulent claims from March to mid-August, Dori Vecchio, the city’s human resources director told The Telegram & Gazette. Since then, more than 500 have come in, she said.


Employees in every department have been targeted. About 100 people who work for the Fire Department and another 100 who work for the schools have been affected. The city employs about 6,800.

“Several high-ranking officials and elected officials in the city have been compromised,” Vecchio said.



Schools Superintendent Maureen Binienda said she has been targeted three times.

Security experts say much of the fraud appears to be committed by scammers using personal information stolen from earlier commercial data breaches or direct attacks on state systems.

The state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development said between March 8 and June 30, almost 60,000 of 1.6 million unemployment claims were determined to be fraudulent. Information on claims filed since July 1 has not been made public.


The Department of Unemployment Assistance did not say how much has been stolen.

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LIBRARIES REOPEN

Two branches of the New Bedford Free Public Library system and several city offices are scheduled to reopen on Tuesday, according to a statement Monday from Mayor Jonathan Mitchell’s office.


The Lawler and Wilks library branches will be open four hours per day with limited browsing with social distancing, and grab-and-go book pickup.

Three city departments are also scheduled to reopen for limited in-person services. The Health Department, Veterans’ Services Department, and Licensing Board offices will reopen from 9

It had all the qualities of a fairy-tale romance to Cassandra Tan (not her real name): meeting an eligible American-Chinese businessman online and falling in love, with the promise of a happy-ever-after.

But she was just being led down the garden path. Over two years, Ms Tan, a clerk in her 50s, was not only cheated of $80,000 by her online “lover”, but she had also been manipulated into being a money mule.

She first met the man on Facebook in mid-2018. He claimed to be a 59-year-old American-Chinese businessman working for “Keppel” and doing so overseas.

He proceeded to spin tales, claiming, among other things, that his money had been “taken by the CIA”, and that he and his staff were “trapped at Customs and needed money to get out”. He also sent images of “himself” in hospital, feigning serious medical emergencies.

“I started falling in love with him. I also took pity on him and wanted to help,” she said.

This ruse went on until October last year, during which Ms Tan transferred $80,000 of her savings to him over multiple transactions.

But it was not over. The man asked her in May this year to allow him to use her account to purchase bitcoin credits. He made three transfers of $5,000 to her account between May and June, telling her to keep $500 each time she bought bitcoin credits on his behalf.

“Every transaction, I kept $500 for my own usage. As he owed me so much money, I thought it is only right for me to keep $1,500 for myself,” Ms Tan said.

The police stepped in after they detected the suspicious transfers. It later came to light that she had not only been the victim of an Internet love scam, but was also being made