Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development is asking Hoosier businesses for help in combatting a recent rash of fraudulent unemployment benefit claims.

The Department of Workforce Development oversees and administers unemployment benefits across the state, and they say the coronavirus has led to an unprecedented increase in the number of individuals filing claims to receive benefits.

Too, with new programs designed to support Hoosiers struggling during the pandemic, such as the CARES Act’s Pandemic Unemployment, come new opportunities for criminals to defraud the system.

These are not the crimes of a disgruntled employee who doesn’t want to work. Instead, they are a form of identity theft.

DWD explains these crimes might manifest as someone receiving an overpayment notice on an unemployment insurance claim, though they personally never even filed for unemployment benefits.

Or, perhaps a business discovers claims were filed using the names of their senior-level managers, though the managers are currently still employed.

Chris Pfaff, CEO of the Knox County Development Corp., says that while unemployment fraud is expected to happen from time-to-time, COVID-19 has likely made it easier for criminals to scam the system.

“With the pandemic, and a large number of folks filing for benefits, it’s likely easier for these criminals to jump into the system and make these fraudulent claims,” Pfaff said.

During the first week of December alone, the state saw more than 900 new unemployment claims, a number the state believes to be inflated by fraudulent filings, though they’re not yet sure just how many of the claims are scams.

“In terms of counting claims, we don’t have that data,” said Scott Olson, media director for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

What Olson and Pfaff do know is that fraudulent claims have increased over the past year, and it’s something all states are currently fighting.

“The bottom line is that the state is seeing an increase; It can definitely be found in every county,” said Pfaff.

With fraud cases on the rise across the state, Pfaff is urging local companies to do routine checks of monthly Department of Workforce Development reports.

“If there’s one message I’d like to get out to businesses, it’s that they should scrubbing their unemployment lists closely each month,” he said.

Should a company notice any anomaly or cause for concern, they should report that to the DWD to be investigated.

“Every company needs to be diligent because, the bottom line is, it’s costing them money, and it’s likely no fault of a person who worked there,” Pfaff added.

For more information, or to report unemploy- ment insurance benefit fraud, visit https://www.in.gov/dwd/indiana-un employment/fraud/.

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