Scammers targeting public benefits have discovered new Paid Leave Oregon program

By Kyra Buckley (OPB)
Oct. 22, 2023 6 a.m.

Some Oregonians have reported getting a letter saying they’ve been approved for paid leave benefits that they never applied for, a warning sign of identity theft.

Oregon’s Paid Leave program has sent out more than $28 million in benefits so far — but scammers are among those trying to cash in on the state’s new program.

Public benefits have long been a target of fraudsters who attempt to illegally gain access to personal data in order to file fraudulent applications for things like unemployment insurance or food benefits. Officials with Paid Leave Oregon said it is experiencing the same type of attempted fraud, and are asking Oregonians who receive a letter regarding benefits they didn’t actually apply for to report it on the program’s website.


The program started paying out benefits last month and has approved more than 15,000 applications so far. Eligible Oregon employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family, medical or “safe leave” — the program’s term for people seeking financial support to escape domestic or sexual violence. Workers taking paid time off for pregnancy may be eligible for up to 14 weeks of leave.


A screenshot of Oregon's paid leave website.

Screenshot/Oregon Employment Department

Workers seeking benefits must send in certain documentation that corresponds to the type of leave they’re taking, such as a birth certificate for a new child. Once an application is submitted, the employment department reviews all the documents and verifies the identity of the applicant. It also notifies the employer.

But some Oregonians have reported getting a letter saying they’ve been approved for paid leave benefits that they never applied for. That’s a warning sign a person’s identity has been compromised. A spokesperson for the program said Oregonians should keep an eye on their mailboxes and report any letters regarding benefits they didn’t apply for.

OPB has heard from at least one employer who reported feeling suspicious after receiving a letter from Paid Leave Oregon regarding an employee who was not planning to be away from work.

Employment department officials declined to provide a count of potentially fraudulent applications they’ve received. But they believe they are catching the fraud attempts in the screening process, before money goes out.

The Oregon Department of Justice suggests checking personal credit reports frequently for any anomalies, and urges suspected victims of identity theft to report it to local authorities and the Federal Trade Commission.