CLEVELAND — Ohio reported fraudulent unemployment claims are spiking in the first six weeks of 2021, as a growing number of northeast Ohioans reveal they've been signed-up for benefits they never asked for.
The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and Lt. Governor Jon Husted said unemployment claims skyrocketed by 197% in the week ending Feb. 6, with 31% of those cases already identified as being fraudulent.
Husted admitted unraveling the growing number of fraud cases will further delay unemployment benefits to Ohioans, who legitimately have the benefits coming their way.
"Many more will be delayed though, until they are properly qualified to make sure that we don’t send money that shouldn’t be sent out," Husted said.
Debbie Stuart of Berea had a fraudulent unemployment account opened using her personal information and said she's still trying to verify the state has flagged the account as bogus.
Stuart said she received a US Bank ReliaCard in the mail connected to an unemployment claim she never applied for with another woman's name on the card, but said her attempts to report the fraud have hit a dead end.
“When I called ReliaCard at US Bank, she told me they are not responsible for any of the accounts from ReliaCard, and that it’s an unemployment scam.”
“I got multiple phone trees, finally when someone did answer I would be disconnected, and I tried this four or five times.”
“I then went on to call the Ohio unemployment fraud line, again I had the same issues, where I would get with no answer, it would tell me the mailbox was full.”
“It’s disturbing because I really don’t know how much information they have, and no one can give me any answers.”
“I’m very fortunate to be working and don’t need the benefits, but the people who do need the benefits aren’t going to be receiving them, and people who don’t deserve them are going to be getting them.”
Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell said consumers should report fraud to the Ohio unemployment fraud website or call the new fraud hotline at (833) 658-0394.
McConnell said consumers should also use the Federal Trade Commission identity recovery websiteto be guided step-by-step through a series of resources.