Ohio unemployment office crippled by account hacks, benefits stolen
CINCINNATI (WXIX) – More than a week after the news of hacks that deprived countless Ohioans of unemployment benefits, there is no clear process or timeline left for reporting benefits stolen.
“Account takeover” hacks surfaced at the end of June.
Hackers gained access to applicants’ unemployment accounts and changed their bank routing numbers. When Ohio Jobs and Family Services paid for the benefits, they went into the criminals’ bank accounts.
The applicants were excluded from their accounts. They called the ODJFS and were told they could verify their identity to regain access to the account (a process that takes two months) or call the FBI.
ODJFS Acting Director Matt Damschroder answered questions on account hijacking on Thursday.
“We have to operate within a framework established by the Ministry of Labor,” he said, “and that framework requires that we have an arbitration process – to have a finding of fact, essentially – that the person has been victim of identity theft before you can make a duplicate payment.
What is this framework? When will the requesters affected by the hacks have access to it? How long will it take to work?
Damschroder gave no specific answers to any of these questions, leaving victims from all three states like Lawrence Walker, Tori Gessner and Jeff Ingle – not to mention the 20 laid-off workers at an engine factory in Lima – with no hope of securing the money owed to them. soon.
This does not suit State Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) who has spent the last week discussing the matter with the ODJFS.
Fedor says she wants these victims to be paid now and sees no reason why the ODJFS cannot go directly to the banks to which the benefits have been redirected and collect them.
“It wasn’t stolen from the Ohioans because they never got it,” she said of the missing benefits. “It was stolen from the system. And the ODJFS says: “It’s not our fault, we didn’t do it, we don’t pay double”. And do they have access to the bank account information where the money was fraudulently deposited? Yes they do.
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The account takeover problem is one of the many issues plaguing the Ohio unemployment system.
Since the start of the pandemic, the ODJFS has paid more than $ 2.1 billion either to fraudsters or to claimants for overpaid benefits. So far, only 7%, or $ 150 million, of that total has been recovered.
Many claimants were hesitant when the agency applied for these overpaid benefits earlier this year. But on Thursday, Damschroder announced that those claimants could file a waiver to keep the money.
Applicants will be required to provide documentation demonstrating that the overpayment is due to employer or government error.
Damschroder expects the system to be up and running within days of the announcement and the review process to begin in August.
The unemployment system has also gained momentum over the past year.
According to documents obtained by FOX19 NOW, the state of Ohio has paid more than $ 89 million to contractors and businesses to support the system as it addresses ongoing issues during the pandemic.
These payments were made from March 2020 to June 2021 and came mainly from federal dollars, according to ODJFS spokesperson Tom Betti.
“The pandemic has created unprecedented hardship for many Ohioans, and we have faced extraordinary challenges in meeting those needs,” Betti said in a statement Thursday night. “In addition to relying on our employees to meet the challenge, our ability to quickly tap into experienced suppliers has enabled us to adapt to these challenges and distribute over $ 22 billion in unemployment benefits to over 2 , 2 million Ohioans in need. “
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