PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – State unemployment officials have launched a website for people who are suddenly asked to pay taxes on jobless benefits they didn’t receive.
Unemployment insurance is taxable income, and so far the state has identified $23 million in benefits that have been paid out to fraudsters who stole someone’s identity to file a fake jobless claim.
“This is yet another complication from these fraudsters who have been wreaking havoc for months and months during the pandemic,” said R.I. Department of Labor and Training Director Scott Jensen.
Some people will receive a 1099-G IRS form in the mail outlining the benefits the government thinks they received. For many, this will be the first time they learn their identities were stolen for fake claims.
“No one is going to have to pay taxes on benefits they didn’t get,” Jensen said. “If folks do get one of these forms, go to the DLT website and it is really apparent on how to take care of it.”
A red banner on the top of the DLT homepage reads, “If you receive tax form 1099-G for UI benefits you did not file for or receive, report it here.”
The link brings users to another page where they can report the fraud. Victims are then asked to fill out a form requesting information including their name and last four digits of their social security number.
“Essentially we’re going to ask you for information and we’re going to send you an amended form,” Jensen said.
Many people have already learned their name was being used for fake unemployment insurance when they received a letter in the mail outlining their benefits.
People are urged to fill out this state police form to report the fraud and freeze the benefits.
Unlike the tax form, this one asks for a user’s entire social security number, which some people have expressed concern about in emails to 12 Responds.
Margaux Fontaine, a DLT spokesperson, said if people aren’t comfortable supplying their full social security number, “we’d strongly encourage them to include at least the last four digits.”
“This allows DLT to quickly look up and put a stop on the claim,” Fontaine wrote in an email. “If they don’t include it, it’s not detrimental, but including at least the last four digits significantly helps the process.”
Others have expressed frustration that they fill out the state police form but are left wondering if anything was done.
“I’ve tried to contact DLT, they don’t answer phone or email you back… state police doesn’t call you back,” Nancy wrote to 12 Responds. “Where are victims supposed to turn to?”
Jensen said the state is not contacting people who have flagged the fraud and the benefits were likely stopped even if people continue to receive material in the mail.
“We won’t get back to you simply because there are so many claims in UI right now so we cant respond to everybody,” Jensen said. “If you send your claim to the state police we are definitely freezing all of those.”
Tim White (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Target 12 managing editor and chief investigative reporter at 12 News, and the host of Newsmakers. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.