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OVB issues fraudulent unemployment claims alert

GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — As unemployment claims have increased across the nation, there has been a significant spike in fraudulent activity as well, according to an alert issued by Ohio Valley Bank.

“Fraud and scams continue to be on the rise during the pandemic. OVB, as well as other businesses, have seen examples where fraudulent unemployment claims are being attempted at both small and large businesses,” Ryan Jones, OVB senior vice president, chief risk officer, said in a prepared statement.

According to the OVB Risk Department, the bank has identified a large number of fraudulent claims and the number continues to increase, the alert said.

“If one is a victim to a fraudulent unemployment claim, we suggest you contact Job and Family Services Fraud Department and your local police department to report the activity,” Jones said. “Every consumer needs to be aware of the various methods used to obtain personal information through social media platforms, emails and phone calls. Do not provide any personal information to someone who contacted you ‘out of the blue.’ If you question the conversation, do a call back before you give any information out over the phone or email.”

In these instances of fraud, scammers are using the IDs of individuals to apply for unemployment, Jones went on to say.

“To make their case, scammers claim that the employer is someone the victim of identity theft is currently working for or recently retired from,” he said.

This issue is impacting individuals and businesses everywhere, including at the local level. The FBI attributes the spike in fraud to the increase in claims filed due to the pandemic.

According to the FBI, scammers use a variety of techniques to obtain the victim’s information, including the following methods: online purchases of stolen personally identifiable information; previous data breaches; computer intrusions; cold-calling victims while using impersonation scams; email phishing schemes; physical theft of data from individuals or third parties; and from public websites and social media accounts.

Typically the victim does not become aware of the situation until their employer asks them why they filed the unemployment claim or until they try to file a claim for unemployment insurance only to receive a notification from the state unemployment insurance agency.

In some cases victims may receive an IRS form 1099-G showing the benefits collected from unemployment insurance. The information contained with the fraudulent claim is quite limited and usually only includes a name and the last four digits of the victim’s tax ID.

If a person believes they may be a victim of this scam, they should contact law enforcement and report the incident to the local Job and Family Services as well as the current employer. In addition, victims are advised to contact the three major credit bureaus to get a fraud alert placed on their credit records. Victims are also encouraged to notify the Internal Revenue Service by filing an identity theft affidavit. For more information, visit http://www.irs.gov/.

TechConnect WV seeks scholarship applications

CHARLESTON — Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, announced the creation and initiation of the Mary Anne Ketelsen STEM Scholarship Program to benefit West Virginia women seeking to further their education for careers in the oil and gas industry. Applications for scholarship funds are now being accepted, with a deadline of March 1.

“Mary Anne Ketelsen, a keynote speaker at one of our Women in Technology conferences and successful West Virginia entrepreneur and philanthropist, generously donated funds to TechConnect West Virginia to establish a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) scholarship program to support women in the oil and natural gas industry, said Barth. “Mary Anne also sought to honor the memory of her mother, Mary ‘Mickey’ Welch, a philanthropist and oil and gas industry pioneer.”

Those eligible to receive a scholarship must be a graduating high school senior with at least a 3.0 grade point average; a current higher education student in either community/technical colleges or four-year institutions with at least a 3.0 grade point average; a working adult professionals interested in advancing their careers; a West Virginia resident student attending institutions of higher education in West Virginia or located in an adjoining state; and those students willing to commit to work in West Virginia for the first two years of their careers.

In 2021, the scholarship program has $22,500 available for distribution to qualified female candidates. Recipients will receive a non-renewable award of either $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000. Current applicants must plan to attend institutions of higher learning in 2021 or 2022.

Complete details on the application process are at https://techconnectwv.org/techconnect-wv-seeks-scholarship-applications/.

Ketelsen is president and CEO of Parkersburg’s Mister Bee Potato Chips, a growing small, woman-owned business in a HubZone. She was recognized both as a Distinguished West Virginian by the governor of West Virginia and is a graduate of both West Virginia University at Parkersburg and Glenville State University.

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