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CHARLESTON — Some people are just finding out now that they may be identity theft victims after WorkForce West Virginia announced it has begun mailing out tax forms to those who received unemployment benefits last year.

The agency issued an ID theft warning Monday after mailing 1099-Gs to nearly 200,000 individuals who received regular state unemployment benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA), pandemic emergency unemployment compensation (PEUC), federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC), extended benefits (EB) and lost wage assistance (LWA).

“It’s unfortunate, but unemployment fraud has been prevalent across the country during the pandemic and fraudsters are out there claiming benefits by using stolen identities,” said WorkForce West Virginia Acting Commissioner Scott Adkins.

Adkins says any individual who receives a 1099-G from WorkForce West Virginia, but did not file an unemployment claim, should report suspected fraud by filing a police report and sending an email to reportunemploymentfraud@wv.gov. Individuals may also call 1-800-252-JOBS (5627) between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, and select option 5 when prompted.

Adkins added that those looking for additional resources for reporting identity theft and fraud should consult the Internal Revenue Service’s Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft or the Federal Trade Commission’s website on identity theft or fill out a U.S. Department of Justice National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) complaint form.

“WorkForce is exhausting every possible avenue to reduce the impact of fraud on innocent West Virginians,” Adkins said. “We have hired additional staff for fraud prevention and detection, including income and identity verification.”

The $900 billion coronavirus relief package signed in December adds steps for workers to prove their eligibility for benefits.

Adkins says the new federal requirement for pandemic unemployment assistance is to verify self-employment and identity of claimants.

“Even if a claim was previously approved, each claimant will be asked to provide additional information,” he said.

Nationwide, by early November, at least $36 billion of the $360 billion in CARES Act unemployment benefits was lost to improper payments, mostly from fraud, according to an estimate from the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Labor. Investigations related to unemployment benefits account for 70% of the department’s caseload, which is nearly six times the level before the coronavirus pandemic.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD or email him at fpace@hdmediallc.com.

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