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Police 'inundated' with reports of unemployment fraud

Posted at 4:34 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 18:43:19-05

AKRON, OH — Police across Northeast Ohio said they continue to see a rise in reports from people who say they're victims of fraudsters trying to cash in on fake unemployment claims.

"We've been inundated by reports and incidents of people having their identity stolen in this regard," said Akron police Lt. Michael Miller.

He estimates the department has received several dozen reports from people claiming someone has used their identity to file for fraudulent benefits.

One of those people is Robyn Shondel.

"I went and checked and there I was," said Shondel.

Part of Shondel's job with the Akron Summit County Library is to screen unemployment claims.

She was shocked when her name appeared on a list from the state.

"I haven't been unemployed for 25 years," said Shondel. "I mean anytime something like that happens, it's a violation."

She quickly learned how widespread the problem is.

"So far, two of my family members, a few co-workers," said Shondel.

Miller said he's never seen such widespread fraud connected to a single incident in nearly 22 years as a police officer.

He said the reports come from people across the spectrum.

"It’s A to Z," said Miller. "It’s the common person, the common citizen, any entity, resident, essentially we’ve seen a widespread group of people impacted by it."

Police are working with state and federal authorities to try and figure out who's behind the nationwide problem.

Ohio's Department of Jobs and Family Services said more than $300 million in fraudulent unemployment claims were paid out since the pandemic began.

Victims like Shondel hope investigators can track down the people responsible before more people become victims.

Already, she said, at least one payment was made in her name to an account belonging to someone else.

"It’s the taxpayers’ money that’s being sent out," said Shondel. "We all pay into that. If nobody’s paying attention to that, it's going to be a lot of money."

The state has set up an online portal for people to report if they've been the victim of unemployment fraud.

Victims are encouraged to report online here.

Since mid-January, ODJFS said it's received 207,144 fraud reports from individuals and employers.