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WKYT Investigates: Unemployment insurance fraud

Published: Mar. 15, 2021 at 4:17 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - There are currently thousands of Kentuckians with unanswered unemployment claims. Some are trying to receive benefits. Others are trying to stop benefits from falling into the hands of scammers.

People told our WKYT Investigates team that scammers are using their information to file for unemployment benefits. State leaders acknowledge the fraud claims are so vast, they’re sometimes keeping their office from helping those who really need it.

Brittany Blankenship has been trying for weeks to talk to someone at the state unemployment office.

A scammer filed for unemployment in her name, putting her family’s income in jeopardy.

“I immediately started freaking out. I tried to contact the unemployment office and there was no way in the world to get in touch with them. I’ve been emailing, I’ve been calling, I’ve been literally calling every number that I could possibly call and there’s no way to get in touch with them,” said Blankenship.

Even people who work for the state are getting claims fraudulently filed in their names. Amy Cubbage, general counsel for the governor, got a letter at her home address saying she qualified for benefits.

“When I checked with UI, it had already been flagged as potentially fraudulent and not to pay out until that was resolved,” noted Cubbage.

She says the state denied 80,000 claims in February.

“National estimates, and we think this held for us, were that about 35% of claims being filed on the federal pandemic related claims were fraudulent. That’s probably now in excess of 50%,” said Cubbage. “It’s concerning for us from a resource standpoint that as these programs are extended the fraud percentages only seem to go up.”

We found fraudulently filed claims outside of the Commonwealth. A nurse in New York said a claim was made in her name in Kentucky. She’s never worked in or visited the state. A man in Utah reached out to us after trying to reach the unemployment office for three weeks straight.

Cubbage recommends people file fraud reports through the state’s unemployment website.

Blankenship is still waiting for the unemployment office to fix her fake claim. She already managed to track down her scammer, a woman from out of state, on social media. She’s got all the information to hand over to unemployment investigators, if they ever call her back.

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