COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Scammers are trying to get your taxpayer dollars by taking it from some of central Ohio’s most vulnerable through fraudulent rental assistance applications.

IMPACT Community Action, a Columbus non-profit that distributes federal, state, and local funding for emergency rental assistance, has distributed about $85 million to help roughly 22,000 Franklin County residents keep a roof over their head since the COVID-19 pandemic began, said Erik Kelley, IMPACT’s fraud investigator.

Kelley said his position was created out of necessity in December.

With the rising cost of housing Kelley said the need for rental assistance is increasing.

“We have processors working maybe 10 applications or more every hour. It’s a lot of need out there,” he said. “One in five applications that come through have certain stigmas or certain flags that come across, that we have to set aside and review in detail.”

That review could take a day, or it could take weeks. In February alone, IMPACT found 34 fraudulent applications, according to Kelley.

“One is problematic,” Kelley said. “We want to make sure anything that comes through IMPACT’s doors – we want to make sure our procedure and processes are in place.”

Kelley said the fraud is reported to local law enforcement and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which oversees the federal emergency rental assistance program.

For safety reasons, Kelley wouldn’t confirm whether any taxpayer money was successfully stolen through fraud, but said IMPACT also continues to review payments after the checks have been cut.