Fraud investigations leave unemployed Hoosiers stuck waiting for benefits

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INDIANAPOLIS — Unemployed people told FOX59 they were locked out of Indiana’s system due to suspicious activity and waited months for help.

Multiple people described desperate attempts to apply for or receive unemployment benefits through the state’s UpLink system.

“People like me are being ignored,” Muncie resident Melanie Wayt said.

Wayt applied for unemployment last year and began receiving benefits, but then found herself locked out of the system from October to late December. When she could log back in, she received a message saying in part, “Your unemployment account has been flagged by our system for suspicious activity. Please answer the below questions and provide the requested documentation…”

Wayt supplied the information and confirmed its receipt in January, but has not yet received any of her benefits, dating back to early October.

“Three people have told me they expedited it to try to get this thing cleared up,” Wayt said. “They need to clear these up, I mean immediately. People are suffering.”

Jeffrey Double lost his job in December, but has not been able to apply for unemployment at all because someone already used his social security number.

“It keeps saying that my social security number is not valid,” Double said. “Nobody’s calling back, nobody can give any answers.”

Double filed an identity theft complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, which reported a huge spike in those reports since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The office received almost 600 complaints this month, March 2021, alone.

Fraudulent claims have plagued unemployment systems, including Indiana’s system, over the past year. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development, or DWD, issued a fraud alert in June 2020 and hired an outside company, ID.me, to help verify applicants’ identities.

FOX59 wanted to talk to DWD about what it’s doing to help people like Wayt and Double, but through a spokesperson the department has denied all interview requests since December. In an email, the spokesperson noted that 25% of the claimants that submitted information to ID.me were identified as fraudulent.

The spokesperson also pointed to the fraud section of DWD’s FAQ page, which you’ll find at the link here. In addition, Hoosiers can fill out a state form and mail or fax it to DWD to initiate a fraud investigation. You can download that form below.

Wayt did get a call back Friday, but did not receive a timeline for when her case will be resolved. Double continued to call DWD frequently, but said he has not yet received a call back despite being told someone would contact him.

“I’m just trying to provide for my family and it’s been a struggle,” Double said.

If you need help with unemployment fraud or believe your information was used to file a fraudulent claim, go to the Indiana DWD website here.

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