CLEVELAND — At the beginning of the month, Ohio saw a 194% increase in unemployment claims, but a lot of those were fraud. The unlucky victims are now getting 1099 tax forms in the mail, finding out someone has been collecting unemployment under their name. Many others are finding out their social security number is in the wrong hands.
This news was surprising to Marianne Ivany, who works two jobs, teaching in a medical lab and teaching theology.
"My office manager called me, kind of with a chuckle and said, 'Hey, I heard you're unemployed and filing for unemployment," Ivan says. "And I said, 'no.' She said, 'Well, I have a piece of paper here with your information and social security number.'"
Ivany says she's never filed for unemployment in her life.
“I know three or four people that this has happened to, personally.”
In fact, this has happened to hundreds of thousands of people. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services says of the 1.4 million unemployment claims filed since May of 2020, half were flagged as fraudulent.
"In December alone, we stopped 100,000 fraudulent PUA claims before payments went out the door," a spokesperson tells 3News.
But the big question: Where was there a breach?
“That's what everybody's wondering," Ivan says. "How are they getting these social security numbers?"
And not just that. These fraud claims have correct addresses of employment, and the right person to contact in the human resource department. The ODJFS says the federal government is looking into it, but so far they don't know where these criminals are getting personal information.
Even though this is scary for Ivany, she feels worse for people who actually need the unemployment money.
“People who need their money who are unemployed, who are dealing with health situations, family, children staying home and they're really counting and that money, and there's others out there abusing the system.”
Here’s what to do if you think you are a victim of fraud:
Step One: Report Identity Theft to ODJFS
Complete this secure online form. ODJFS will issue confirmation emails to everyone who files a report with information about identity theft and protection. The agency will process the reports, conduct investigations and, if necessary, issue corrections to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on 1099s issued to victims.
Step Two: How To File Your Taxes (if you received a 1099-G)
Please follow the IRS guidance to taxpayers on identity theft involving unemployment benefits. You can find it here.
Step Three: Protect Your Identity
Many resources are available for victims of identity theft to help them protect their identities. ODJFS strongly urges anyone who suspects they may be a victim of identity theft to take appropriate action to protect themselves. Here are some recommended resources:
- Review your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com
- Ohio State Highway Patrol: When Identity Crime Strikes You
- Federal Trade Commission Resources at identitytheft.gov
- Place a free one-year fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies online or through their toll-free numbers. The bureau you contact must tell the other two.
- Equifax: 800-525-6285
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 800-680-7289