Florida stopped 55,000 unemployment claims for possible fraud in 2014; employees upset by fraud

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Millions of your tax dollars are paid to thieves each year. They’re ripping off you and the government by filing fraudulent unemployment claims.

It’s a growing problem in Florida, and companies are frustrated with the state’s steps to prevent the fraud.

The problem with this fraud, you may be a victim and never know it because this won’t show up on your credit report.

Jonathan Halpert goes to work every day to earn his paycheck. Now identity thieves are earning a paycheck in his name.

“Someone somewhere is living off my hard work,” explained Halpert.

Halpert works for Rome Aire. A company that helps you cool off, but his boss is steamed over the costly crime of unemployment fraud.

“This is unacceptable,” explained Dora Santos.

“I feel as a taxpayer I am paying for it, you are paying for it, everyone is paying for it,” explained Santos.

Halpert learned his personal information was used when his boss called asking if he filed for unemployment.

“My reaction being kind of a joker was do I need to? Last time I checked I am still getting my paycheck,” explained Halpert.

He’s the second person this has happened to at Rome Aire.

Santos tried to stop the unemployment fraud last December when someone filed in another employee’s name.

“I get online and write that this is a mistake. Anna still works here, and that I am concerned there must be fraud,” explained Santos.

Ten months later, “They distributed $1,375 in Anna’s name,” explained Santos.

A check taxpayers paid for.

“I am upset as a Floridian that this money, this $1,375 is now just out there. Nobody can retrieve it,” explained Santos.

The Department of Economic Opportunity runs Florida’s unemployment system. The agency said it’s increasing staff and technology to stop this growing problem. It spotted $55,000 potentially fraudulent claims this year which saved taxpayers $244 million.

But, they can’t tell us how many millions go out the door.

“Did the state ever send anything to your house to say hey someone is filing an unemployment claim in your name?” Strathman questioned.

“No, I never got any information. We have been at the same address for 3.5 years,” explained Halpert.

Only his boss was alerted that a claim was filed. Since both cases were flagged as fraud, information is slim.

“No one can tell me anything. I’m like where did you send the checks too? You should know that,” explained Santos.

Santos is doing all she can to keep her her employees names from being used to illegally collect unemployment benefits.

“This is unfair everyone goes out of their way to protect the criminal,” explained Santos.

And both Santos and Halpert hope this theft won’t haunt them for years.

“Anyone can be a victim at any time,” explained Halpert.

While you can’t prevent this identity theft, you can prevent other forms.

Check your credit report. You can do it once a year for free at Annual Credit Report. If you check just one of the three credit agency reports at a time from Annual Credit Report , you can keep tabs on your identity year round. For example, check TransUnion in January.

Then in May check Equifax. Then in September, check Experian. Make sure you always go through Annual Credit Report each time you check your credit.

If you believe you are a victim of Reemployment Assistance fraud, you can report it to the DEO at 1-800-342-9909.

The state turns over the claims it believes may be fraudulent to the U.S. Department of Labor.
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