A growing problem of fraudulent unemployment compensation claims has surfaced in the ranks of county employees, according to Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley.
He said at Wednesday’s Highland County commissions meeting that 20 employees had received notification that their jobless claims were being processed, when in fact, none of them had filed such a claim.
According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, 115,174 initial jobless claims had been reported for the week ending March 13. Of those, nearly 20,000 have been flagged for potential fraud.
“The state did set up a fraud hotline for us to report these to,” Fawley said. “But then nobody seems to know what’s happening after that. We have never been billed for any of these people, we’ve just gotten the initial notice with the last four digits of their Social Security Number, along with their name and address.”
Since February, ODJFS reported that fraudulent claims have increased three times more than the beginning of the pandemic one year ago.
The agency said that much of the fraud is tied to relief programs established by the government, both state and federal, in response to COVID-19.
Fawley said the local fraudulent claims had been filed on individuals in different county departments, such as Job and Family Services, the sheriff’s office, Victim Witness program and even in the auditor’s office.
“I know three county auditors have been on the website saying that they got it with their name on it,” he said. “It’s pretty widespread.”
Fawley questioned whether state officials in ODJFS fully understood, in his words, “what the real problems are,” but expressed the hope that “if someone is smart enough to hack their systems, that the state has someone in (information technology) who is smart enough to stop it.”
ODJFS said that anyone who suspected their identity was compromised and used to file a fraudulent unemployment claim should report it to the agency immediately by going online at unemployment.ohio.gov, clicking on “Report Identity Theft,” and following the instructions.
Individuals can also report suspected fraud claims by calling 833-658-0394.
In other matters, commissioners agreed to a public viewing on Wednesday, April 14 at 10 a.m. concerning the vacating, or closure, of an alley in Samantha. A public hearing has been scheduled to follow at 11 a.m. that same day in the commissioner’s office.
Commissioners approved a motion to purchase another vehicle for the Highland County Sheriff’s Office to replace a 2017 Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck that was severely damaged in a crash on Feb. 24.
Britton reported that since the truck was totaled, the county would receive $21,364.50 after the salvage bid and insurance deductible, which would be applied to the purchase of a new vehicle.
Duncan said prospective contractors were still examining potential repair work for the roof of the Hi-TEC Center and expected bids to be submitted soon.
Also Wednesday, commissioners moved to continue their affiliation and participation in the County Commissioners of Ohio plan with the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.