Fraudulent unemployment claims bombard small businesses

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 10:39 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is publishing more information to warn employers about what to do if their business is receiving fraudulent unemployment claims, or if an individual’s identity may have been used to file a fake claim.

In the last five weeks, ODJFS has had more than 5,700 employers submit reports of possible ID theft for a little over 16,000 employees. In addition, the department had 134,000 individuals report possible ID theft to date. Of those reported, over 26,000 are out of state.

“This is an active investigation and we are working with federal authorities. ODJFS has implemented new fraud detection methods. However, like any banking institution or corporation, we are not at liberty to give specifics as we do not want criminals to know what we are doing to combat fraud.”

Tom Betti, Office of Communications for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

Laurie Watson-Rotterdam is a local attorney and the Treasurer of Legal Associates in Toledo, who says her offices were experiencing these issues.

In October, the law offices received a 6-page request for information from someone who never worked there but submitted an unemployment claim.

In January, Watson-Rotterdam received two of the same requests for information, about a week apart, for two additional people who never worked there.

After notifying the ODJFS, Watson-Rotterdam says on Friday, January 29, she received seven additional fraudulent requests and two more the following Saturday.

In February, Watson-Rotterdam says a colleague at the office received a letter from the ODJFS regarding her own claim against her own company for unemployment benefits, which she did not submit.

Even more worrisome, the paperwork had the last four digits of her Social Security Number.

Watson-Rotterdam says when her colleague contacted ODJFS, they notified her that the fraudulent claim for $12,000 had been approved. This colleague had also received four fraudulent requests for information from non-employees of hers.

“We were alarmed and we weren’t sure if we were the only employer that was getting them, because we’re very, very small, and we don’t have a website,” explains Watson-Rotterdam. “We couldn’t figure out how these people or these claimants found our information and were able to submit claims.”

13abc also spoke with Staci Moore, the Office Manager for Swift Manufacturing, another small business in Ironton, Ohio experiencing the same problem.

Moore says on a yearly basis, the company possibly receives one or two fraudulent or mistaken claims, which she says are easy enough to remedy by filing the appropriate forms with the state. However, the large influx of false claims can be very time-consuming and worrisome on the business.

“Since the start of the year, they’re coming in roughly every two to three days,” says Moore, who describes the packets of paperwork sent from the ODJFS for each one.

“Not a single one of them has ever worked for us, and it’s becoming a daunting task every day you check the mail and there’s one or two,” adds Moore.

The Department of Jobs and Family Services is publishing more information about what to do if someone hasn’t applied for unemployment but received a 1099-G or any other correspondence from ODJFS.

The ODJFS wants to stress they are victims of identity theft and should go online to, click on the red button that says “Report Identity Theft” and then click “ID Theft: What To Do-Individuals” and follow the steps to reporting ID theft and receiving information and filing their taxes and further protecting their identity.

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