Brian Stowell is an employed Oklahoman during the COVID-19 pandemic. When Stowell received a letter Wednesday saying he filed for unemployment, he knew something was not right.
“I opened it up and it had my name, Social Security (number) and address,” Stowell said. “It showed that somebody had applied for unemployment under my name and information. It’s frustrating to have it happen to you but it does occur."
Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services Executive Director Steve Harpe said the fraud is likely caused by the multiple national level breaches in recent years. The OMES, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and other agencies are investigating the fraudulent claims.
More than one percent of the state's 300,000 claims have been affected by fraud.
"What’s driving this is, ‘Hey, I'm getting something that I didn't apply for,’” Harpe said. “Two, it’s causing a breakdown of Oklahomans who actually needs this money and slowing us down from helping that.”
Harpe said state leaders are working to make the process safer, but also recommend Oklahomans monitor their accounts online.
“Your best protection with any of this is knowing your own history, your finances, your money and challenge everything that looks weird everything that looks crazy.”
Stowell hopes others can learn from him, as well.
"I have a lot of safeguards in place to limit that and it still happened to me,” Stowell said. “So do the best that you can to really know what's out there and who you're giving your information to.”
Harpe said if you receive a suspicious letter or card that you did not apply for, you should cut up the card or letter and report it to the OESC.