Oklahoma businesses flooded with fraudulent unemployment claims

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — As businesses are working to keep the doors open, many say they are being targeted by scammers.

Several businesses reached out to KFOR after receiving fraudulent unemployment claims. 

“Yesterday, we got this entire packet of over 30 fraudulent letters with people that have never worked here before,” Jackie Turner, owner of J&B Graphics, told KFOR. 

Turner is talking about a large stack of letters from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

“It’s like the same name, just changing the middle initial,” she said. 

In each of them, scammers are seeking unemployment. 

“We have to spend a great deal of time to respond to every one of these letters,” Turner said. 

Turner said they’re concerned because if a company doesn’t respond within 10 days to dispute the claim, whoever is filing the claim automatically will get those taxpayer dollars. 

“We just thought, you know what? How many other people out there that are not working, they’ve closed their business, mail could be piling up?” Turner said. “They could have these letters in front of them as well and they don’t even know that they’re there.”

Sure enough, other companies have emailed News 4 with the same problem. 

In one of the cases, the scammers are using real names of their employees who are currently working and still getting paid. 

“There’s got to be a lot of this going on and it’s just a shame,” Turner said. 

David Ostrowe, Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration, who’s representing the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission sent News 4 this statement: 

“If an employer receives a claim from an individual that has never been employed with their business, the business has 10 business days to respond before the claim moves to the the next stage of the unemployment process. While the 10-day-rule is still in effect, due to the pandemic and the unprecedented amount of claims that are being filed, if an employer does not respond within 10 business days the process that would automatically charge this to a businesses’ unemployment rate is currently suspended and the business will not be charged.”

“We just don’t need this. This is taking money from our state. And hopefully at the end, when we see these ominous numbers from people that are applying for unemployment, how much of that, is that really true?” Turner said. 

The OESC says that the agency has identified more than 3,800 fictitious claims since mid-March and are still reviewing hundreds of other suspicious filings.

“We are hearing from claimants blocked from filing for unemployment benefits because a claim in their name has already been submitted,” said OESC Executive Director Robin Roberson. “For individuals who lost their job due to the oil crisis or COVID-19 related business closures, discovering their identity has been used to file a bogus unemployment claim only adds to the devastation our neighbors are experiencing.”

Officials say that OESC is coordinating with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office to identify fraudulent activity.

Oklahomans who believe a fraudulent claim has been filed using their personal information are asked to email OESC at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us.

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