ODJFS: Fraud in pandemic and traditional unemployment systems; new legislation institutes additional requirements to stop it

Fraud plagues Ohio's pandemic and traditional unemployment systems

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - New information as Ohio Job and Family Services tells 19 News that there have been more than 100,000 reports of identity theft reported into their portal.

Kim Henderson, the Executive Director of ODJFS, based in Columbus, says, “Of the 104,444 new traditional unemployment claims that we have received the week of January 31st, at least 44,000 have been flagged for possible fraud and are under review.”

Even more cases of fraud will likely be detected, according to Henderson. Fraudulent claims in both the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and the traditional unemployment program have resulted in the identity theft of tens of thousands in Ohio, delaying money to families and individuals who depend on unemployment as a lifeline while they look for work.

“Unfortunately, some of the more automated processes will be slowed, and that will create delays in processing some of the legitimate claims that are in that mix,” Henderson said.

The Executive Directors also says, unfortunately, the way the PUA program was initially designed opened the door to some fraud activity, “The Department of Labor urged states to let recipients self-certify both their eligibility and their earning history. This allowed payments to be issued quickly. But unfortunately, it also opened the door for criminal activity.”

“The recent federal stimulus legislation that I mentioned previously institutes new documentation requirements for the PUA programs, in an effort to address and reduce fraudulent claims. It also proposes new limitations on backdating claims and requires states to verify the identities of newer PUA claimants,” Henderson told 19 News.

All, in an effort to address and reduce rampant fraud and get unemployment dollars into the right hands.

Henderson says ODJFS is deeply sorry that, again, the criminal actions of those hoping to benefit from this worldwide emergency have caused hardship and anxiety for honest people in the state of Ohio.

If you suspect identity theft in the Ohio unemployment system, there are two ways you can report it, log onto www.unemployment.ohio.gov or call 1-833-658-0394

Copyright 2021 WOIO. All rights reserved.