Experts: Half of Oklahoma’s unemployment claims possibly fraudulent

Mike Seals - June 29, 2021 10:27 pm

Criminals may have filed up to half of Oklahoman’s unemployment claims over the past year, some experts say.

You may remember a few weeks ago, hundreds of out-of-work Oklahomans swarmed the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s offices, claiming their way2go debit cards had been wrongfully flagged as fraudulent.

However, that’s nothing compared to the thousands that were caught scamming the system, according to David McClellan, CEO and Founder of socialcatfish.com, a company studying the impacts and trends of unemployment scams.

“The amount of money that was lost through fraud and scams over the last 18 months is incredible,” he said.

McClellan says, after speaking with several state agencies, they found on average about 50% of all unemployment claims weren’t legitimate.

“You know we had extra stimulus money right, we had unemployment funds and so the scammers knew that, you know, our economy, we were dumping money into the economy and they’ve done everything they can to get their grubby hands on it,” he said.

McClellan says a lot of the money likely ended up in the hands of those outside the country.

He warns, as scammers find more sophisticated ways to steal your identity, you need to be more aware of what to look out for.

“Just be careful on any links that aren’t familiar, so that’s a really simple one. If you get a random text message and email asking you to log in or reset your information, always be wary,” McClellan said.

Normally, unemployment agencies are experts at sniffing out scammers, but McClellan says many states were unprepared for the flood of unemployment brought on by the pandemic. Because of this, many were left rushing to get funds out to those in need.

This is why Oklahoma is now cracking down on those taking advantage of a crisis.

OESC recently disabled nearly 20% of their debit cards that showed suspicious activity and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation launched a task force dedicated to these specific cases.

However, McClellan says it may be too late to catch everyone.

“What we’ve gotten back from the states is that it’s going to take years to actually come through this and actually figure out that the real impact of the fraud that has happened, which tells you how extensive it is at the same time,” he said.

If you believe you are the victim of an unemployment scam, you’re asked to report it to the newly created website from the Department of Labor.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from falling victim to these scams, click here.

 

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