COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Thursday an increase in initial traditional unemployment claims for the week ending February 6, 2021, is suspected to be the result of fraudulent activity.

ODJFS said the 140,444 new unemployment claims filed between January 31, 2021, through February 6, 2021, represents an increase of 194% from the prior week. To date, 44,000 claims have been flagged under suspicion of fraud and are under review. Further, more of the 140,444 new claims are anticipated to be fraudulent, causing delays in processing some legitimate claims while all claims are reviewed.

ODJFS said it is investigating all claims that were flagged for potential fraud and taking steps to implement more robust identity verification in the program. 

“There are a lot of people who are struggling, who need this money, and they will get, if you have a legitimate claim, you will get every penny that you’re eligible for, and that reassurance is important to know,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Thursday.

Many Ohioans have become victims with their identities used to file fraudulent unemployment claims in both the traditional unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programs, according to ODJFS.

ODJFS Director Kim Henderson, the fraud claims are coming from international and national scammers taking advantage of the unemployment crisis caused by COVID-19.

“We’re deeply sorry that the criminal actions of those hoping to benefit from this pandemic emergency has caused hardship and anxiety for honest people nationwide,” Henderson said during a press conference last week.

In January, ODJFS issued 1.7 million 1099-G tax forms to people in whose names unemployment benefits were paid in 2020. Many of those individuals were never paid unemployment benefits and did not know their identity had been compromised until they received a 1099-G form.

If you or someone you know feel like you’ve dealt with an unemployment scammer, here are some tips from ODJFS: