Texas Workforce Commission launches fraud reporting tool

The Texas Workforce Commission launched a new tool this week that will help people report the fraud and get their names cleared faster.

TWC says it has received about 200,000 fraudulent claims worth about $10 billion worth from criminals during the pandemic.

Catosha Brown is among the growing number of victims suffering the financial toll of identity theft unemployment fraud.

"Everything in the house is about to get cutoff. Mom has a heart machine, boyfriend has kidney failure, I have two remote [school] kids," Brown said.

Last year alone, Texas recorded 200,000 fraud cases, exponentially higher than TWC's typical load of 1,000 a year.

Brown made repeated calls to TWC when her benefits were abruptly cut off due to fraud. After hours on hold and transfers that yielded no results, Brown was in despair. 

"I mean what do I do? We will be out on the street. I'm the sole provider," she said.

The pandemic gave criminals a new goldmine -- tapping into to unemployment dollars while the agencies that guard the money are treading water like never before. 

"A lot of money at play, that is really what has attracted the fraudsters is if they can get a little here and there," said James Bernsen, TWC.

Nearly $1 billion out of $10 billion in fraudulent claims has gotten into the wrong hands.

"Trying to show them with new technology it doesn't pay, we will block that fraud and come after you," Bernsen said.

He says their new portal automates the system and frees up staff to unlock the accounts of victims, like brown, who need to access to legitimate claims. 

"In 2019 we had the staff and could have individual outreach. But when you go from 1,000 cases to 200,000 in a year that system won't work," Bernsen said.

"They pointed me to website where you can chat with fraud, I've sent messages and emails numerous times, seems like a big circle," said Jessica Trusheim, who has been trying to clear her name of fraud since June 2020.

"Don't get any relief for 11 months now, I feel like a number that is forgotten about."

Trusheim hopes the new online system will work better. 

"Even if it is just an email or voicemail or text, something to say hey, we got your claim so you know where you are, getting in touch with a human being," she said.

As for Brown, she finally got her check with back pay on Thursday.

"I wanted to cry. It was a weight lifted off of me. I shouldn't have had to go through all of that," she said.

TWC urges people who have been caught in the backlog to not give up. Once the agency catches up, it will still pay unemployment benefits owed -- including the federal stimulus dollars as back pay. 


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