The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says of the almost 1.5 million unemployment claims filed since May of 2020, half were flagged as fraudulent. Why is this happening and what do you do if you are a victim of unemployment fraud? Ohio Farm Bureau’s Ty Higgins visits with OFBF Policy Counsel Leah Curtis about the issue and how to protect yourself from unemployment fraud.
Employers, employees and anyone with questions or concerns about unemployment can visit unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov.
Listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners.
Ty Higgins [00:00:00] The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says of the almost 1.5 million unemployment claims filed since May 2020, half were flagged as fraudulent. Why is this happening? And what do you do if you’re a victim of unemployment fraud? For this Legal with Leah, we discuss the issue and how you can protect yourself. I’m Ohio Farm Bureau’s Ty Higgins with Leah Curtis, Ohio Farm Bureau policy counsel.
Leah Curtis [00:00:25] There are a couple of reasons this is happening. During the pandemic, we have had an increase in unemployment benefits for people who are using the unemployment system. And so that makes it more attractive to people, to criminals who want to try to defraud the system. Another big reason is unemployment was thankfully made available for a lot of people who traditionally would not use it, for example, the self-employed. And so, again, that makes for a bigger pool of people that are applying, more chances for people to fraud the system. And then last, there were just so many people, unfortunately, who were out of work and applying for those benefits. And that vast amount of claims makes it easier to try to slip in. People see an opportunity to try to commit some criminal activity and try to slip their fraudulent claims into.
Ty Higgins [00:01:17] How are those filing these fraudulent claims getting the information and how do you know if you’ve become a victim of unemployment fraud?
Leah Curtis [00:01:26] It’s not clear how the these people that are filing are getting this information. Just like it’s unclear how they get it with any sort of identity theft that unfortunately we’re all familiar with at this point.
Leah Curtis [00:01:38] But it is a serious thing that you should deal with immediately. You’ll usually know because either yourself or your job will be notified of a claim being filed in your name. You might also receive a 1099 G, which is usually what the state sends you if you have received unemployment compensation in the last year, that would say this amount of funds has been paid out to you. And then some people have actually also received notification that a claim was filed against them as an employer. Personally that happened to me, and I do not have any employees. So that is another aspect that is happening as well. Someone may claim that you are an employer and file a claim against you.
Ty Higgins [00:02:20] If this does unfortunately happen to someone like it happened to you, Leah, how do you go about reporting it?
Leah Curtis [00:02:25] The state has set up a website, unemployment.ohio.gov. There’s a big red button that says report identity theft. You want to click on that. That’ll get you to a form. You can fill it out. And again, personally I went through this. So I have talked directly to them and they assured me every form is reviewed by a human.
Leah Curtis [00:02:45] So you can put stuff in the notes even if you want to, and they will be checking it. There’s also a phone number to call if you do not have access to the Internet. And ODJFS will assist you with some further information on reporting. So you may want to also report this to your local authorities and you can report it to the attorney general as well. And they can they will follow up with some more information.
Leah Curtis [00:03:11] If you get a 1099 G, the IRS does have some guidance to file on what to do when you need to file your taxes and there’s been that identity theft situation. And you can also, again, report that to ODJFS and they will work with you to get that corrected as well.
Ty Higgins [00:03:29] Of course, we want to stress if this hasn’t happened to you, it doesn’t mean that it can’t. So what are some of the immediate steps that our members can take to protect their identity?
Leah Curtis [00:03:38] So with this and really, if you’ve had any situation where you’ve been notified by a company that you may have had some sort of security breach with your information, some good steps to take start with reviewing your credit report.
Leah Curtis [00:03:49] Make sure there’s not been anything happening you aren’t aware of. You can put a fraud alert on that credit report or you can put a credit freeze. So the difference is the fraud alert is just a warning. The freeze will prevent any new accounts from being opened. If you’re married, you probably also want to check your spouse’s credit reports as well, just to be sure. And then it’s a good idea to check your other accounts: check your bank account, check places that you are using financial information on the internet, check up on your passwords. Make sure you’re using strong passwords as well, and kind of keep an eye on those things. So this unfortunately, it’s something we are all going to be dealing with probably for a long time. But keep an eye on those accounts and those credit scores, those credit bureaus, and routinely check them. Maybe when you have to change your clocks and change your batteries in your smoke detector, also maybe you should check your credit bureau as well.
Ty Higgins [00:04:42] Leah mentioned a couple of resources to report identity theft. It’s unemployment.ohio gov. And that toll free number is 800-686-1555.