CLEVELAND (WJW) — The owner of the Clifford House Bed and Breakfast in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood says he was initially confused when he received 10 notifications in the mail from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“The first thing I did was panic, like ‘am I in trouble for something,'” James Miner told Fox 8. “And then I opened them up and realized these people were claiming that they had worked here and I laid them off, and I don’t really have any employees to lay off.”
Miner believes scam artists filed the fraudulent unemployment claims after gathering information about his business online. Since receiving the mailings, he has been tied up trying to make sure the state of Ohio is aware that the unemployment claims are the work of criminals.
“All of the claims come from Ohio, they come from the Youngstown office, the Lima office, the Columbus office, the Cleveland office,” he said. “I almost have a full time job just doing paper work, like this that isn’t making me any money and it’s interrupting the system.”
What Miner experienced is not uncommon among employers and employees across the state. The Department of Job and Family Services and police departments across the state have been inundated with complaints about fraudulent unemployment claims.
The state says many Ohioans are discovering that their identity has been stolen and used for a fraudulent claim after they receive a 1099-G form from the state for benefits they did not apply for.
“The agency is deeply sorry that the criminal actions of those hoping to benefit from this world wide emergency have caused hardship and anxiety for honest people in the state of Ohio,” said ODJFS Director Kim Henderson.
A hotline established by the state for victims of the unemployment identity fraud has been swamped.
“I called that number, which I jokingly refer to as the advice line, and they told me to call another number to report these things and that number has been overwhelmed for the 5 days I’ve tried to call and it says call back another time,” said Miner.
Miner says he eventually gave up on the help line and is now attempting to report the fake unemployment claims on the Department of Job and Family Services website.
“One person told me that there were 40 new people in the fraud department. They probably need 40 more new people,” said Miner.
Ohioans who need to report identity theft and unemployment fraud can go to unemployment.ohio.gov and click on “report identity theft,” or call the hotline at (833) 658-0394.