As the state scrambles to get Oklahomans the unemployment benefits they need, the process is being slowed down by fraudulent claims.
“There are 3,000 that we’re aware of that we’ve shut down. We suspect that there are more,” said David Ostrowe, Secretary of Digital Transformation.
Throughout the country, identity thieves are using illegal data to file phony unemployment claims. In Oklahoma, recipients are mailed benefit cards. It takes more time for recipients to receive benefits, but it also reduces fraud.
“And so it has to go to a mailbox. Other states that are allowing citizens to put in routing numbers and account numbers, they’re actually probably getting farther than Oklahoma,” Ostrowe said.
As cases are flagged for possible fraud, though, it gums up the works, delaying benefits for others.
“Absolutely. I have to take a person off of their assigned duties to look at this one claim, keep in mind we have over 300,000 active claims, they go through a weekly certification. If fraud is involved that slows down the process for people that need these funds.” Ostrowe said.
If you receive a letter saying you’re eligible or ineligible for benefits you haven’t applied for, or if you’re an employer and you received a request on behalf of an employee who isn’t entitled to benefits, contact the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and the attorney general’s office.
“We’re well connected to and collaborating with state and federal law enforcement to see if we can track down where these are coming from,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said.
“We’re trying to balance the fraud aspect with needy Oklahomans that actually need these funds as fast as possible,” Ostrowe said.