More than 200 Oklahoma State University employees have been victims of fraudulent unemployment claims.
This has affected numerous people, both nationwide and statewide, prompting the Attorney General’s Office and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to create a joint task force.
“We are hearing from citizens, businesses, municipalities and state agencies that fraudulent unemployment claims are rampant across the state,” OSBI Director Ricky Adams said in a press release.
In Oklahoma there have been 5,500 reports collected concerning unemployment fraud since the pandemic begin.
In Stillwater alone there have been a total of 305 reports of fraudulent unemployment claims over the last month.
The Stillwater Police Department reported 65 claims, and Oklahoma State University reported having 239 reports as of Wednesday.
“There is no information indicating this fraud was targeted at Oklahoma State University employees specifically. Unfortunately though, many employees were included as part of a much larger unemployment fraud issue,” Shannon Rigsby, Public Information Officer at OSU, said.
An OSU employee that was a victim of the unemployment crime said for her, this was very nerve racking.
“My main concern at the time was identity theft and what long-term issues I may have to deal with if fraud went beyond a false unemployment claim,” Candace Thrasher, Manager of Academic Integrity said.
Thrasher said she was informed of the fraudulent activity through the Human Resources Office at OSU.
Thrasher said she acted quickly to let authorities know it wasn't her that filed the claim, but she still received a payment through the mail.
“About a week after being notified of the fraudulent claim, I received a payment from OESC. Due to the shortened waiting period, the payment was issued even though I took the appropriate steps immediately," Thrasher said. "If you receive a debit card in the mail from OESC and didn’t file and unemployment claim, do not activate the card, notify their fraud office, and your employer.”
OSU is also taking extra precautions during this time that included directions to students and staff to change their pass codes. Rigsby said this was unrelated to the unemployment fraud.
“Credible information was gathered that indicated that OSU was the focus of a concerted effort to compromise our infrastructure and cyber environment,” Rigsby said. “In an abundance of caution, the passwords system-wide expired and everyone had to create a new one.”
Anyone who receives a bogus claim is asked to fill out a form on the AG's website, "where the claim will then be directed to the proper law enforcement agency,” according to the office's press release said.
Thrasher admitted this whole ordeal has been frustrating for her.
“While I’m glad the payment was mailed to my residence, I don’t understand why someone would attempt to file a fraudulent claim in this manner, unless they didn’t know they wouldn’t receive the funds,” Thrasher said. “It saddens me that people are attempting to take advantage of others during this time. I’m sure the situation has caused an increased workload for our HR department, OSU Police Department, and the OESC.”
If anyone has been affected by the unemployment fraud, the Attorney General’s Office wants them to contact the OESC at email@example.com.
For more information on false claims and other resources related to unemployment for individuals and business owners, visit https://oesc.ok.gov/.
Individuals are also encouraged to fill out the new form and submit it to the Attorney General’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org so the claim can be investigated by law enforcement.