LIMA — Law enforcement agencies and government officials in Allen, Putnam and Auglaize counties are receiving increasing numbers of reports concerning fraud attempts centered on the unauthorized application for state unemployment benefits.
“This most recent scam is the filing of fraudulent Ohio unemployment claims on people’s behalf without their knowledge,” Kalida Police Chief James Gulker posted earlier this week on the department’s Facebook page.
“Over the past few months I have been contacted by residents of the area that they have received either an email or letter stating that they have applied for unemployment benefits in Ohio. We have heard from both employees and clients that they have received written notification that a claim was made in their name,” Gulker wrote.
“At present we are unaware of a way to proactively determine whether or not a claim has been made on your behalf.”
Amy Freymuth, director of Workforce Development for the Auglaize County Job and Family Services agency, confirmed Thursday that reports of unemployment fraud have been on the rise recently.
“Unfortunately, we have received a handful of calls about that this week. Early on during the (coronavirus) pandemic there were some reports of fraud, but it seems to have really increased this week,” Freymuth said.
Some people who did not file unemployment claims have received letters from the state providing them with a PIN number for an account opened in their name, while others received debit cards with benefits already loaded onto them, Freymuth said. “One employer even called asking about an employee who was already working for him who was listed as applying for benefits.”
Freymuth said people who call to report any sort of unemployment fraud are being advised to file a formal police report, check their credit report online and to freeze any accounts which may be suspect.
They are also urged to call the state Fraud Hotline at 1-800-686-1555, option 1, or to fax their questions or concerns to 1-614-753-4898. Emails pertaining to fraud may be sent to ucbenprotest@JFS.ohio.gov.
Joe Patton, director of the Allen County Job and Family Services Office, said he was aware of several local instances of residents receiving notification of benefits they had not signed up for.
“I’ve had five or six county people who have experienced this. They brought it to my attention but all I can do is to refer them to the fraud division (of the JFS) at the state level,” Patton said.
Asked if he felt the incidents of fraud are widespread, Patton replied, “I do think the numbers are up there.”