Identity theft drives dramatic increase in Indiana unemployment fraud

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INDIANAPOLIS– Newly released numbers show Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.4% last month. At the same time, reports of unemployment fraud continue to flood the system.

This week, a man on Indy’s west side filed a police report claiming that someone used his stolen identity to file for nearly $2,400 in fraudulent unemployment benefits.

The victim claims last year, someone stole a safe from his home and that allowed them to steal his personal information.

“It’s a huge issue and not just in Indiana. Every state in the nation is dealing with it,” said Josh Richardson with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

Richardson didn’t have exact numbers on how many fraud cases Indiana has uncovered, but noted that online identity theft is driving a majority of those claims.

“We’ve seen tens of thousands attempts to obtain fraudulent benefits. We’re on guard on this on a daily and weekly basis,” said Richardson.

Mandated closures for businesses throughout the year has already resulted in more than $5 billion in unemployment claims being paid to Hoosiers and scammers always follow the money.

“Scammers are really taking advantage of the COVID situation,” said Tim Maniscalo with the Better Business Bureau.

As always, the best way to avoid fraud is to protect your personal information. 

“Once they’ve got your identity the doors is open for them to cause all kinds of mischief for you,” said Maniscalo.

The federal government’s pandemic unemployment assistance program, which allowed benefits for self-employed people has also made preventing fraud difficult.

In the meantime, workforce development is adding additional staff to investigate and try to prevent all potential fraud.

“Additional staff has been required across the board from our claims to our fraud unit, so we have staffed up in that area,” said Richardson.

Anyone who’s been the victim of identity theft is encouraged to file a police report. That can help clear up any claims of fraud that arise.

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