MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The trend of unemployment benefits being filed under others’ names is growing across the country with tax day coming on May 17, and the Gulf Coast is no exception. It’s the latest issue surrounding unemployment benefits since record numbers claimed unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We first spoke with Debra Lewis Wednesday, when she told us about getting a letter from the Alabama Department of Labor about an unemployment claim she didn’t file. She’s retired.
She called us again Thursday evening to tell us she got two more in the mail.
“Listen, we have a problem,” she said.
She’s concerned this will impact her tax returns and her Social Security benefits, which she just started receiving.
“Angry, frustrated,” she said, waving the letter in the air.
Local police departments have been feeling the impact of this.
“Well here recently it seems like we’ve been getting one to two calls a day dealing with unemployment fraud,” said Detective DeJuan Jackson with the Daphne Police Department. If someone has enough information to file a claim in your name, they also likely have enough information to steal even more money from you in the future.
“We are telling most people to come in and check their credit reports to make sure there’s no other kind of fraud going on,” Jackson said.
The following line is in the letter Lewis received: “To correct errors, call 1-800-361-4524.”
“Well, there’s no human being you can call to say I’ve got a fraudulent claim to report,” Lewis said.
When we called the 800 number, we got a recording saying, “We accept appointment requests after 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday for the next day.”
We called at 5:10 p.m. The line was busy.
When we called again at 5:22 p.m., the automated message stated that all of the appointments for the following day were booked.
A spokesperson with the Department of Labor told us this online form is the best way to report issues like this. We asked why the phone number was what was listed in the letter but have not heard back yet.
Lewis has filled out the online forms for each of her claims. We will update you with what comes of that. In the meantime, she says until she can get someone on the other end of the line, she’s apprehensive this issue will get fixed before the tax deadline.
“So don’t come after me, guys. I don’t need to pay taxes on money I didn’t earn,” Lewis said.