OSBI launches task force to tackle fraudulent unemployment claims

Officials warn to watch for suspicious activity

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – It’s a growing problem in Oklahoma: more scammers are tapping into government funds meant to help people who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19.

Q: “How many have you seen here just within your own office?”
A: “About 2 dozen and that’s just the companies we have here, statewide it must be thousands,” said Jonathan Duboise, a CPA in Commerce, Oklahoma.

Fraudulent Unemployment Claims in Oklahoma

“This is a look at just a portion of the approximately 2,500 unemployment fraud complaints my office has received since we began helping law enforcement process claims last week.” -Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) has identified more than 3,800 false claims since mid-March and its reviewing hundreds of other suspicious filings.

“Established companies are receiving filings for employees they don’t have, and it’s really important that they send those back to the OESC as quickly as possible because after 10 days, they go into effect and fraudulent people will be getting paid,” said Duboise.

No one is immune to fraud. Even employees at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office have caught scammers trying to file for unemployment in their names.

“To the untrained, or to the general public, that receives that in the mail, they just think, ‘What’s going on?’ or, you know, they start questioning, ‘I didn’t apply for unemployment, or I did, but they’ve got wrong information on the form,’ so, you know, I encourage everyone to if they do receive unemployment, or if they’re not going through that process of unemployment, to please question any forms that come in that might suggest unemployment claims of some sort or another,” said Sheriff Jeremy Floyd.

While it seems there will always be some looking to take advantage of other’s misfortune, both Floyd and Duboise say it’s important to act fast if you think you’ve been compromised.

“Let the systems know as quickly as possible, regardless of whether it’s Oklahoma, Missouri…because if you don’t trying to reverse it, even if it’s you, chances are it’s going to be a year later, and whether that’s going to get charged to your tax account? Likely it will,” said Duboise.

Duboise also says that if you receive a debit card in the mail and suspect suspicious activity, you should contact the state immediately because the card indicates an account has been filed and someone is making a fraudulent claim in your name.

If you receive a fraudulent unemployment claim in the mail, follow the steps on the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office website: http://www.oag.ok.gov/coronavirus-fraud-resources.