In an effort to combat unemployment benefits fraud, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has partnered with a national data hub.
The National Association of State Workforce Agencies’ Unemployment Insurance Integrity Center helps states identify fictitious claims by searching for and matching data used in fraud schemes in other states.
Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams told The Times-Gazette she wasn’t aware of any instances of local unemployment benefits fraud since claims aren’t handled on the local level anymore.
Bret Crow, an information officer for ODJFS, said the most recent data showed that about 1.3 percent of the unemployment benefits paid over the last year were fraudulent and that were no county-by-county figures.
He said that since 2004, claimants have had the option to file their weekly certification online.
The ODJFS is currently using the data hub for individual investigations, and also identifies unemployment claims filed outside the United States as well as claims that might show up in multiple states.
If they identify a potentially fraudulent claim that also was filed in another state, staff members will contact that state to share information and initiate an investigation.
The agency said it uses a variety of tools to detect fraud, including new hire reports from employers, cross-matches with quarterly unemployment insurance tax reports, cross-matches with local/state/national incarceration records, cross-matches with government records, performance audits and public tips.
The ODJFS said it expects to routinely run its weekly claims through the hub by the end of the year.
Individuals who are found to have committed fraud must repay the benefit and a 25 percent penalty, in addition to having federal and state income tax returns intercepted, wages garnished and court-ordered restitution imposed.
They also will be prohibited from collecting future unemployment benefits until serving two penalty weeks for each week fraud that was committed, and they may face criminal prosecution.
A news release from the agency stated that more than 200,000 Ohioans apply for unemployment benefits annually, and that benefits are intended to provide short-term income to unemployed workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.
To receive unemployment benefits, Ohioans must be able to work, available for work and actively seeking work.
Ohioans can report fraud tips online at www.unemployment.ohio.gov/fraud, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-686-1555.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.