Experts explain how current scams could lead to unemployment fraud; 19 News teams up with the pros to get victims help

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 11:50 AM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Are you the victim of an ongoing scam?

19 News partnering with the Cleveland Consumer Action Network which includes members of the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad to host a live call-in event Thursday from 5pm to 6pm.

Consumers can call to ask questions or to report a scam. After the event, consumers can call the Scam Squad line at (216)443-SCAM or (216) 443-7226.

The following agencies have provided call-takers to answer questions during the event.

  • Better Business Bureau of Greater Cleveland
  • Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs
  • Ohio Attorney General’s Office
  • Apprisen, Debt Management Programs
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Pro Seniors

THURSDAY AT 5: Don't miss your chance to get your questions answered! Feb. 28-March 6 is National Consumer Protection...

Posted by Hannah Catlett on Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Ahead of the call-in, experts shared information about current scams that shows why you always need to be careful not to give out too much personal information.

For example, Tiffany Reed realized she is one of the thousands entangled in a fraudulent claim for unemployment benefits, when she got paperwork in the mail.

“I’m listed as an employer. I’ve never employed anybody in my life. I’ve never owned a business,” she said.

Reed says it seems harder to avoid being the victim of a scam like this lately than it is for criminals to file a fraudulent claim.

They typically just need a name, birthday, and social security number to strike.

“How they how do these people get our information?” Reed asks.

The answer is what consumers need to be aware of.

19 News’s sister station in Cincinnati interviewed US Attorney David Devillers, who is in charge of the DOJ’s unemployment fraud investigation.

“There’s a market for your Social Security date of birth, your information is is on the markets all over the world, not just in the United States. And, that’s being monetized,” he said.

Devillers and our partners at the Cuyahoga County Scam Squad say there are several layers of scams leading to unemployment fraud.

Some of them don’t even appear to be unemployment related at first.

Experts say scammers start with a phishing scam. Criminals send out fake notifications from banks or government agencies... and trick people into sharing social security numbers.

Others make cold calls to potential victims and coax the information out of them.

“It made me feel violated how somebody could just pick your name and your address,” Reed said.

Reed doesn’t know how someone got her information.

But, she doesn’t want the attempted unemployment fraud to affect her taxes or financial decisions in the future.

“What will this do to me later on?” She said. “What if I ever need benefits, or what if it comes back to hit me in some type of way?”

The good news is that Reed recognized the as fraud and reported it to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services right away.

She’s hoping others who see this story do the same.

“Absolutely respond and tell them that the information is incorrect, that you don’t know the person, you’ve never employed them, and you don’t want your name tied to any type of unemployment benefits whatsoever,” she said.

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