TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Kansas is seeing an increase in unemployment claim fraud, and it’s happening all across the country. With the increase of unemployment claims due to the pandemic — comes identity theft.
Sonia Olmos has been working from home since March, but she wasn’t out of a job. When she got a letter from the Kansas Department of Labor asking her employer to sign off on her unemployment payments, she was caught off guard and scrambling to fix it.
“I checked the work mail and opened it to see my name was on the Department of Labor document saying I filed for unemployment,” Olmos said, of the document that explained someone else was trying to claim more than $12,000 in her name. “I immediately panicked and I contacted my boss, she panicked as well.”
In a statement, a Department of Labor spokesperson told KSNT, “The agency is putting in place a number of measures, including doubling the size of the fraud and special investigation unit and deploying specialized technology to target and block abusive IP addresses and malicious bot activity, to help stem the tide of identity theft and unemployment insurance fraud.”
Olmos is not alone. It’s happening all across the country and in northeast Kansas. Pat Howell is the owner of Universal Communications, an Olathe company that installs fiber optic cable.
“My first thought was what to do because that’s never happened before,” Howell said.
Someone had filed a claim – in addition to the pandemic unemployment assistance – with pending approval of more than $30,000 from the state.
“That’s a huge amount of money,” Howell said.
The thief then opened a bank account in Tennessee – presumably as a way to funnel the money they planned to claim from him.