Unemployment Fraud, ID Theft Victimizing Jobless Oklahomans

  • Unemployment Fraud
    Unemployment Fraud

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 7,570 fictitious unemployment claims have been identified since March 22, and the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) reported it is reviewing thousands of other suspicious filings.

The agency is working with Oklahomans who are out of work and are victims of identity theft.

In a related matter, state Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that his office has developed a new resource to help process unemployment fraud claims. Individuals or businesses that receive bogus claims are asked to fill out a new form on the Attorney General’s website, and the claim will be directed to the proper law enforcement agency.

“We are hearing from claimants blocked from filing for unemployment benefits because a claim in their name has already been submitted,” said OESC Executive Director Robin Roberson.

“For individuals who lost their job due to the oil crisis or COVID-19-related business closures, discovering their identity has been used to file a bogus unemployment claim only adds to the devastation our neighbors are experiencing.”

Oklahomans can stop false claims made in their names by contacting the OESC at (405) 962-4602 or fraud@oesc.state.ok.us. For more information on false claims and other resources related to unemployment for individuals and business owners, visit https://oesc.ok.gov/.

Individuals also are encouraged to fill out the new form and submit it to the Attorney General’s Office so the claim can be investigated by law enforcement. The email address to submit the form is unemploymentcomplaint@oag.ok.gov.

The form can be accessed here: http://www.oag.ok.gov/Websites/oag/images/Unemployment%20Fraud%20Form.pdf

Identity theft is occurring at “an alarming rate,” Ms. Roberson said. The pandemic provides additional opportunity for fraudsters to swindle government assistance programs designed to help legitimate claimants to provide for their families during difficult times, she said.

“Under normal circumstances, bogus claims are typically identified on the front end,” Ms. Roberson said.

“An employer has 10 days to respond to notice of an unemployment claim filed against the business before the claim is adjudicated and eligibility is determined. That’s still the process. Now, a spike in bogus claims is resulting in legitimate claimants learning they’re unable to file because someone jumped ahead of them in the process by using their identity.”

The OESC is coordinating its efforts with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Attorney General to identify fraudulent unemployment claimants. Additional security features have been added to the online filing process to impede the ability of an individual or bot from seeking to profit from this crisis.

A major security breach in 2017 reportedly exposed hundreds of millions American Social Security numbers and other personal information, enabling this type of fraudulent activity to occur. Employers are encouraged to respond to OESC when notified a claim has been filed.

In many instances the fraudulent claims are for employees who are still working for the business receiving the notice. Employees still working for a company receiving the claim notice should be notified of the claim by their employer so they can take steps to protect their identity and personal information.

In the event a prepaid debit card for unemployment benefits is received and the recipient did not file a claim, notify OESC immediately at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us to stop the fraudulent payment of benefits.

Fraudulent claims usually include an individual’s legal name and legitimate Social Security number. The claim may include additional accurate personal information such as their annual, monthly, or weekly compensation amount. The claim may include an accurate former address or a falsified address to which a benefit card may be received. Generally, some but not all the information provided to OESC is factual.