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Unemployment fraud offers pivotal lessons

Criminals took the state of Ohio for hundreds of millions of dollars when COVID-19 created the opportunity to defraud the Department of Job and Family Services, which was overwhelmed by unemployment claims.

Now, the department is announcing it so far has clawed back $398 million in fraudulently gained unemployment benefits.

With the help of law enforcement and banks, Ohio JFS says its recoveries included $69.7 million in fraudulent transactions from PayPal, $41.3 million from 32 banks, $30.2 million seized by law enforcement, and $17.8 million recovered through voluntary repayments, offsets and returns from other states.

“Criminals hit Ohio and the rest of the nation hard with fraudulent claims, taking taxpayer dollars and slowing efforts to get money to those in need,” Ohio JFS Director Matt Damschroder said.

“The recovery of these funds is proof that Ohio continues to collect taxpayer dollars and pursue every avenue to give victims of identity theft justice.”

To be clear, there is some trickery in the language used by Ohio JFS, as $238.5 million of what was “recovered” was in the form of unemployment benefits that already had been blocked from being distributed when they were caught by safeguards.

But “recovered” sounds more heroic than “pulled out of a tangle of red tape.”

Either way, those working to return taxpayer money to its proper place in state coffers are to be commended for their effort.

Surely the process will result in lessons learn when another such opportunity for fraudsters rears its head.

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