COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Some central Ohioans are having a tough time getting their unemployment benefits from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, and it’s putting a strain on their pocketbooks.
Many of them reached out to Better Call 4 over the last week with messages like these:
“The ODJFS unemployment website has been down since July 7th.”
“People are 2 weeks behind getting paid.”
They are also saying there’s been little to no guidance from the department:
“I have tried several times to log in this week, and have not been successful. I have also attempted to call to file my claim over the phone and was not able to get through. They (ODJFS) have not even acknowledged there is an issue other than listing on their site they are experiencing a high volume of calls.”
There were also concerns about fraud. One message read in part:
“Somebody is trying to file for unemployment benefits in Ohio using my name. I am receiving emails and letters from ODJFS and have been trying to contact them for weeks but can never get ahold of anybody. I have filled out the online fraud report, but continue to get correspondence from the unemployment office concerning ‘my claim.’ Can you help me?”
I reached out to ODJFS about the complaints, and received this message:
“Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder announced [Monday] that the agency’s information technology team discovered and fixed a security flaw that fraudsters recently attempted to exploit in Ohio’s unemployment system.
“Over the past three weeks, the department has been experiencing an increased number of attempts to fraudulently access the state’s unemployment system. The root cause of the system vulnerability was determined to be a code flaw in the Ohio Job Insurance system, specifically the linking of identity and authentication functionality between OJI and the state’s OH|ID single sign-on system.
“As a precaution, ODJFS locked more than 28,000 accounts with suspicious activity. When an account is locked, the legitimate user cannot access their unemployment account and payments on the accounts are suspended.“
“Our teams are working to ensure bad actors don’t have any opportunity to take benefits out of the hands of eligible Ohioans,” Damschroder said.
ODJFS estimated that $189,184.62 was paid out in bogus claims because of this security event.
This past weekend, ODJFS emailed locked account users with instructions on how to authenticate their identity online and reestablish the link to their OH|ID by setting up two-step verification and answering security challenge questions to regain access to their account.
“We currently have a high volume of callers, and wait times are long,” Damschroder said. “Users can now avoid that wait time by reauthenticating their identity and regaining their access online.”
Users who are unable to recover their account or apply for benefits online may call ODJFS at 877-644-6562.
Individuals who believe they are victims of unemployment fraud may notify ODJFS online by visiting unemployment.ohio.gov. Click on the “Report Identity Theft/Fraud” button and follow the guidance for individuals.