OESC says fraudsters are taking advantage of the employment crisis

Staff Writer
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) said last week it is working with Oklahomans out of work due to the oil industry and COVID-19 crises who are also victims of identity theft.

The agency said in a news release April 29 that it has identified more than 3,800 fictitious benefit claims since mid-March and is 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.”

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

“Under normal circumstances, bogus claims are typically identified on the front end,” Roberson said. “An employer has 10 days to respond to notice of an unemployment claim filed against the business before the claim is adjudicated and eligibility is determined. That’s still the process. Now, a spike in bogus claims is resulting in a legitimate claimant learning they’re unable to file because someone jumped ahead of them in the process using their identity.”

OESC is coordinating its efforts with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Attorney General to identify fraudulent unemployment claimants. Additional security features have been added to the online filing process to impede the ability of an individual or a bot to profit from this crisis.

The OESC said a major online data security breach in 2017 reportedly exposed hundreds of millions American social security numbers and other personal information, permitting this type of fraudulent activity to occur. Employers are encouraged to respond to OESC when notified a claim has been filed.

In many instances, these fraudulent claims are for employees still employed by the business receiving the notice. Employees still working a company receiving the claim notice should be notified of the claim by their employer so they can take steps to protect their identify and personal information.

In the event a prepaid debit card for unemployment benefits is received and the recipient did not file a claim, please notify OESC immediately at fraud@oesc.state.ok.us to stop the fraudulent payment of benefits.

Fraudulent claims will usually include an individual’s legal name and legitimate social security number. The claim may include additional accurate personal information such as their annual, monthly, or weekly compensation amount. The claim may include an accurate former address or a falsified address to which a benefit card may be received. Generally, some but not all the information provided to OESC is factual.