DOVER, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s no surprise Florida’s broken unemployment system created a myriad of issues for thousands of Floridians. But turns out, unemployment fraud involving other state agencies is also creating issues for folks in the Sunshine State.
Cynthia Ballard lives in Dover and as a disabled retiree, one of the last things she would file for is unemployment. So imagine her surprise when she opened her mail to find someone else filed for unemployment in Kansas and California using her Dover, Florida address.
Ballard started receiving the paperwork in the mail last week.
“How do I report this? Fraud, this is fraud,” she said, when asked how she responded to the unexpected mail.
The claims used different names but both appeared to be for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA. That’s the federal program that’s paid out roughly $50 million in benefits to independent contractors, gig workers, and those who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.
However, officials are also sounding the alarm about the exploitation of PUA.
Pennsylvania’s attorney general on Wednesday unveiled a massive unemployment fraud indictment against inmates who allegedly conspired to fraudulently file for PUA benefits.
And in California, one of the states where Ballard’s address was used, fraud has run so rampant the state has been forced to pause new unemployment payouts.
“He said ‘yes, we’re having severe problems with it,'” Ballard said, of calling to report the fraud to California’s unemployment agency.
Ballard’s food stamps were recently reduced and she fears this could be to blame, as unemployment claims can impact your benefit amount. And for other victims, the implications are broader.
If anyone uses your information to file unemployment, whether in Florida or elsewhere, it can create huge delays if and when you ever go to file yourself. In particular, because it’s illegal to collect unemployment in multiple states, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity could flag YOU as the potential fraudster if anyone is receiving benefits under your name or information in another state.
“Whatever you do people, pay attention to your mail!” Ballard warns. “And if you get this in the mail, do not throw it away.”
Every state has a number (and in some cases emails and portals) to report both claimant and employer unemployment fraud. If you think you may be the victim of unemployment fraud, click here for information to report it.