INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A data breach has put the personal information from thousands of people including Hoosiers into the hands of criminals.
Thieves have used that information to illegally collect millions of dollars of pandemic unemployment benefits.
Today, the director the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services said more than 70,000 people have reported the theft of their identity; among those is a growing list of Hoosiers.
Jill Henderson, the director of Job and Family Services, said Wednesday that she knows hundreds of millions of dollars of fraudulent unemployment claims have slipped through the system. “Identity theft and unemployment fraud are certainly widespread and national challenges,” she said.
David Emrie contacted I-Team 8 after he received a suspicious 1099 tax form from the state of Ohio. The documents said he had collected almost $7,000 of unemployment benefits. Emrie has never lived in Ohio nor has he filed for unemployment. Turns out he is one of thousands of victims of identity theft. If the tax form is not corrected by the state of Ohio, he could be on the hook for the taxes. The state of Ohio has set up a special website for victims to report fraud. Emrie and another News 8 viewer who ask we not use their name told I-Team 8 that they were hesitant to hand over personal information to the state of Ohio.
Director Henderson said they have no other options. “Essentially, you report the theft, the potential identity theft, to us you file your taxes accordingly. The erroneous 1099 does not need to be filed with your taxes. It does not impact this year’s process you need to undertake. File as usual. We will be moving through the process of issuing corrected 1099s as time goes forward.”
The state of Ohio has started a new fraud hotline specifically for people who have had their identity used for unemployment benefits. The hotline is open during regular business hours. The fraud website directs victims through a few steps, which requires handing over your Social Security number, address, and date of birth, which is essentially all the information that was stolen in the first place. The reports are turned over to law enforcement for investigation; however, the big question remains: Who is responsible for the massive act of fraud?
Henderson said, “It is the result of criminal activity where individuals have cobbled together varies data points around a person’s identity and used it to then apply onto what is basically an agnostic system, and we continue week over week to get smarter about it.”
The bottom line is that the Indiana victims of this cross-state fraud have to bite the bullet and hand over their personal information or face paying taxes on money someone else received.
Plus, there is little chance any of the Indiana victims will ever find out who stole their identities and used them in Ohio.