FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment benefit-related identity theft is on the rise.
This common scam and fraud has struck near our home. WANE 15 digital executive producer Aaron Organ was the victim of this crime. In the past month, he received nearly 10 letters from the Indiana Department of Manpower (DWD). All letters have his address but not his name.
“Every time you receive a letter that is not addressed to you, you ask yourself ‘what is this? “” Organ said. “I asked my wife ‘what do you think this is?’ We thought nothing of them.
This week, however, we found that the letters are in fact billing notices for the unemployment benefit overpayment. One of the letters read: “Our records reveal an unpaid balance of an unemployment benefit overpayment in the amount of $ 4,939.00. Others were for $ 5,388.
The letters go on to say that the DWD will return the debt to the United States Department of the Treasury and the Indiana Department of Revenue to block all federal and state tax returns.
Collectively, the letters total nearly $ 16,000. And there were several more that the bodies never opened and returned to the Ministry of Workforce Development with the words “returned to sender”.
“Fortunately, I didn’t have to file an unemployment claim, so [you know], if this is going to impact me or if they think I’m going to have to pay for this money, or [you know], putting a lien on my property or something, that’s a concern for me, ”Organ said.
Organ and his family have lived at their current address for almost five years and after researching tax records he confirmed that none of the people named in the letters had ever lived at his address. After learning about the situation, Briana Brownlee of WANE 15 contacted the Ministry of Labor for answers.
A spokesperson frankly said: “It looks like this could be some kind of fraud problem.”
Organ also called the DWD and a representative told him “with unemployment and the pandemic there has been a lot of identity theft and fraud.”
The representative explained that Organ will have to file a state police report and a report with the DWD. She warned that with so many investigations opened, it will be a slow process for her case.
“Now I have to put in the time and energy to complete these reports,” Organ said. “There are about 100 million things I’d rather do than sit here filing a report. Frustration is a good way to describe it.
Indiana Department of Employment officials held a press conference regarding the unemployment benefits update on Friday.
During the briefing, DWD Commissioner Fred Payne said Organ’s case was not uncommon.
In fact, it was downright personal to him.
“An unhappy yet familiar character is fraud,” said Fred Payne, Indiana Workforce commissioner. “You probably know someone who has been the victim of UI identity theft. Right now you are watching one. Someone used my information to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Imagine how I felt when I found out that someone had used my information.
Payne said he was amazed at the scale and persistence of those who commit fraud. He added that the state has put in place various measures to block and avoid fraudulent acts. Indiana stepped up its identity verification process in the summer of 2020, but 27% of those who grew tired of verifying their identity were subsequently found to be fraudulent.
The DWD advises if you believe you have been a victim of fraud to file a police report and file a report. Click here to read more.