What to do if you suspect you are the target of unemployment tax fraud

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Jodi Reitz worked for Ohio Radon Mitigation in Licking County since 2014, one of just four employees.

So, she was surprised when the company received an unemployment claim from the Department of Job and Family Services at the end of December, for an employee who’s never worked there.

“What was their start date? What was their end date? Why were they terminated? Well, we don’t have any reasons,” Reitz said.

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And in January, the company received two more claims.

“It is just very strange that a company with only four employees has three unemployment claims in three weeks!” Reitz said. “This just seems like a huge scam.”

Columbus attorney Dan Mordarski agrees. He runs his own law firm with two employees. Earlier this month, he received an unemployment claim with his name and social security number on it.

“So much is out there under my personal name, because I am the owner,” Mordarski said. “So, things are linked to social security numbers, as well as tax ID numbers for the firm.”

And as tax season approaches, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is sending out 1099-G forms to 1.7 million Ohioans who have received unemployment benefits.

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More than 160,000 of those have already been flagged for fraud.

That’s why Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost sent a letter to Congress last week, asking the government to pause the collection of taxes on those claims until they’re investigated.

“You get flagged, you get an audit, maybe penalties and interest for taxes you didn’t pay,” Yost said. “All of this because some thief used your name.”

The Attorney General said lawmakers are working toward a solution. Until one is reached, if you received one of those tax forms and did not apply for benefits, or if you believe you’re a victim, like Reitz and Mordarksi, ODJFS Director Kimberly Henderson said it’s up to you to take the steps to protect your information.

First, report it.

“ODJFS needs to know,” Henderson said. “We need to receive the report and the notice from any individual who feels they have been impacted by fraud.”

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Second, place a fraud alert on your credit reports, which will notify you of suspicious activity on your accounts.

Finally, do not report those benefits on your taxes. Seek additional guidance from the Department of Taxation.

The Department of Job and Family Services also launched a new way to report suspected fraud.

Visit the department’s website and click on the “Report Identity Theft” button. You can also report suspected fraud to the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

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