HOUSTON — The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out a record number of unemployment claims this year, 5.5 million so far, with new requests coming in every day. But some business owners are finding some of those claims are fake.
A company with 25 employees, OGH Services, has, so far, managed to pull its way through the pandemic. For the commercial HVAC company, that means no layoffs or furloughs.
“We’ve actually been really lucky since COVID hit," Vice President Wendy Broadhead said. “We’re still essential, and we were able to keep all our employees employed.”
So imagine Wendy Broadhead’s surprise when she got three separate claims for unemployment, two of them using the names and social security numbers of her currently employed employees.
“For current employees who are still working full time," Broadhead said.
And the third claim she opened, she recognized right away. It had her name and her social security number.
“I flipped over to the back page, and I saw my own name on it. And I thought 'well, that’s kind of funny,' because as an owner of a company, I don’t think I’d be filling for unemployment," Broadhead said.
The Texas Workforce Commission says it’s happening more and more after disasters. People are filing fraudulent claims of unemployment.
“Now I know somebody has my name. They have my social security number. They have all this information. It’s just frustrating," Broadhead said.
TWC found 7,973 identity theft claims after Harvey, and so far this year, they’ve identified and 5,871 fraudulent claims.
Compared to overall claims, that number is very low, but still, it happens. Broadhead wants other owners to be aware.
“Definitely keep an eye on your mail, make sure you’re picking it up. And if you do see those unemployment claims, make sure you file them as fraud ASAP," Broadhead said.
TWC has a website dedicated to reporting that fraud. And if someone is caught, they work with local law enforcement to get them prosecuted.