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Ardmore citizens among thousands of Oklahomans potentially impacted by unemployment fraud

Sierra Rains
srains@ardmoreite.com
State and local officials are warning individuals of a rise in unemployment fraud throughout Oklahoma.

Individuals across the state have recently been finding an unusual letter from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission in their mailboxes.

The letter states that a wage review is being conducted to determine the amount of unemployment benefits they will receive. However, the victims in these cases have never applied to receive unemployment benefits.

According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the number of people falling victim to unemployment fraud has been on the rise in Oklahoma, with more than 3,800 fraudulent claims in the state since mid-March.

Local reports of scammers trying to use individuals’ identities to file for unemployment have also been flooding into the Ardmore Police Department within the last few days.

“When it comes to the identification of people it could be local or it could be people from other states who are filing these claims. We’re not for sure on how they’re obtaining the information from these people but I think it’s just random,” said APD Capt. Claude Henry.

Whenever anyone sends in a claim to file for unemployment, the OESC will review personally identifiable information such as birth dates, social security numbers and addresses to make sure everything is correct. If something is incorrect the commission tags it as suspicious.

“The main cases that are getting pushed through the unemployment office right now are those instances where all of the information lines up,” Henry said. “So whenever all the information lines up and they go to process the claim, the victims of the identity theft are actually receiving the notices because their addresses do line up.”

Small business owners have also been left wondering why they’re getting unemployment claims— sometimes for people they may have never employed before.

Business owners are advised to notify employees to be on alert if they receive a debit card or a wage review form without filing for unemployment.

“You’re going to want to make sure as a business owner if you receive any of these types of claims that you respond to the unemployment office detailing that this is not a rightful claim,” Henry said.

Business owners have 10 calendar days to respond to any type of unemployment claim.

To avoid becoming a victim of unemployment fraud, Henry said individuals should safe guard their personal information as much as possible.

“Sometimes scammers and people who do get your information can get it off of bills and things of that nature,” Henry said. “Also when you’re disposing of mail make sure that you’re disposing of it properly, shred it or tear it up into pieces to where it’s hard to identify.”

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation also suggests being suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, texts or email messages. Do not reply or click on links within a suspicious email or text and confirm who you are speaking with during a phone call.

Individuals should pay attention to the URL of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site. Anti-virus software, firewalls and email filters can also help protect individuals from having their personal information stolen.

According to OESC, the commission does not communicate with customers via text message, charge customers fees to use the website, or release claimant debit card numbers to private companies.

Anyone who believes they may have been a victim of unemployment fraud should make a report to OESC, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office or their local law enforcement.

Claims can be emailed to OESC at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us or reported to the fraud department at (405) 557-7157. If reporting to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office, a form can be found at oag.ok.gov. The form can then be submitted via email to unemploymentcomplaint@oag.ok.gov.

Claims reported to the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office will be investigated by law enforcement.

“If there’s any reason to believe that there’s leads or any type of investigative work that can be done in the jurisdiction of where that fraudulent act has happened they will distribute those forms to the local law enforcement agencies or you can contact whatever agency your jurisdiction is in and you can file a report with your local law enforcement agency,” Henry said.

The Ardmore Police Department can be reached at (580) 223-1212.