LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Unemployment fraud is a major problem that is hard to find information about here in Nevada.
This is especially an issue now because as many of our State’s residents need their unemployment, fraudsters are stealing it.
To make things harder, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) is also releasing few details.
We talked to one woman who has personal experience with the issue.
“My operations director opened the mail, and it was a filed unemployment application with my name on it,” said Debbie Ritchey, CEO of the Body Spa Group.
The I-Team asked if she had ever filed for unemployment this year, to which she replied:
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It’s my company.”
Ritchey says she didn’t receive unemployment money, either.
“They had to have had my social security number and knew where I worked,” she stated.
The CEO called DETR to report fraud and said she hasn’t been able to reach anyone.
“It’s alarming because if this is happening, what else is happening?” Ritchey questioned.
The I-Team reached out to DETR, and a spokeswoman said fraud can be reported on the website. Claims will be investigated by staff, and DETR may or may not follow up to get more information.
Ritchey’s director of operations for the salon group describes the website as confusing.
“It’s crazy. I don’t know what’s happening. Nothing is making sense anymore,” Ritchey lamented.
So, how many unemployment claims are believed to be fraudulent?
In a letter asking the US Inspector General for an investigation into DETR, Republican State leaders wrote that DETR recently reported up to 185,000 possibly fraudulent jobless claims, costing the State millions of taxpayer dollars.
When the I-Team asked DETR and the Governor’s Office for more information, details were not provided. The unemployment agency sent us the following statement:
While we understand the interest regarding potentially fraudulent claims, we cannot comment or provide any details regarding fraud or claims being investigated for potential fraud in order to maintain the integrity of these investigations at this time. DETR is also working with Nevada’s COVID-19 Fraud Task Force to assess the problem. Due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing, we cannot provide no further information about the details of the investigation at this time. As information becomes available that DETR can provide publicly, we will provide updates.DETR spokeswoman
We then reached out to local communities. This is because while information is being stolen from workers at private businesses like Ritchey’s, public employee info is also being stolen.
Clark County reports 203 employees have been victimized.
The City of Las Vegas reports 50 fraudulent claims.
Upon determining the claims are fraudulent, the city contacts the employee immediately and provides them the instructions to notify DETR of a false claim made. The city also provides information supplied by the AG’s office to assist with protecting their personal identification information.”City of Las Vegas spokesman
Henderson reports 100 for March alone.
For the month of March, the City of Henderson had about 100 unemployment claims that are fraudulent. We have not received claims yet for April to present. The Human Resources Department notified every affected employee and provided guidance to them on reporting through DETR and monitoring the fraudulent claims. The Henderson Police Department is also working with the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the fraudulent claims.”City of Henderson spokeswoman
North Las Vegas reports 74 fraudulent claims.
We are aware of 74 fraudulent claims. Human Resources has been closely tracking unemployment claims and quickly notifying employees who have been impacted once a fraudulent claim is discovered. We have been working closely with the Attorney General’s office and DETR to assist in their investigation.City of North Las Vegas spokesman
Boulder City reports 45 fraudulent claims.
The City is aware of 45 fraudulent claims filed with DETR to date.
All City of Boulder City employees who have been affected have received information on contacting the three major credit reporting agencies and Social Security. In an effort to be proactive, ALL City employees were sent an invitation to sign up for a credit theft protection service for one year at no cost to the employee.Boulder City spokeswoman
The I-Team also learned information has been stolen from at least 17 Metro employees.
“It just seems like there’s no control anymore of anything,” said Ritchey.
She noted she contacted credit bureaus, and she’s keeping a close eye on her bank accounts.
“Our No. 1 concern is to stay safe, but second, with all the fraud going on, it’s just, you really got to pay attention to what you get in the mail.”
Ritchey’s next move is to contact the Attorney General’s Office, which is accepting complaints. There is a task force for COVID-19-related crimes, like unemployment fraud.
Sources tell us there is some confusion about which agencies are actually investigating the issue. For example, Metro does not have access to DETR systems, and their investigators haven’t been provided the number of fraudulent claims. We do know Metro’s Digital Forensic Investigators are working with DETR, though, to investigate Metro employee fraud.
The I-Team has not heard of many arrests made due to unemployment fraud. However, in June, a Las Vegas woman was arrested after the feds say she used 40 stolen identities to collect $170,000 in unemployment money.
We know incidents like the aforementioned are frustrating for our viewers to hear, especially if they are waiting for unemployment.
Metro has compiled a list of helpful resources to help protect yourself against fraud. You can find it here:
If your personal identifying information has been compromised, DETR has created a list of resources for help, including the Federal Trade Commission and Social Security Administration.
A DETR spokeswoman also says victims of unemployment fraud can visit the agency’s website to report it. When you reach the homepage, select the Fraud Reporting Form on the left-hand side under “Quick Links” to file a report. You can also report potential fraud through the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.