Texas Workforce Commission

The pandemic has put many people out of work, forcing them to turn to the state for unemployment benefits.

But that has created an opportunity for scammers to make money off of bogus claims.

Earlier this week, the Texas Workforce Commission warned that scammers are stealing identities and using them to apply for unemployment benefits.

It is a troubling trend that has caught the attention of various businesses in Lubbock.

"They're really hoping that ultimately the business kind of ignores that claim and with the extra unemployment money that's out there because of the  COVID relief packages, there's a lot of money to be had from the scam," Kyle Jacobson, VP of government relations with the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, explained.

When someone applies for unemployment, their former workplace is contacted to verify they no longer are receiving a paycheck.

Paul Scioli, a partner of PFG advisors in Lubbock, knew something was up when he received a notice for an employee that still worked for him.

"It is a legitimate form from the unemployment office. And I went into his office and said 'I didn't know I fired you yet.'"

In a matter of days, Scioli received two more notices for employees of different businesses.

He then contacted those businesses and advised the problems that could arise if they did nothing by the posted date on the claim.

"I contacted some clients and human resource departments and asked if they had experienced anything similar. And the very first one I called said 'Funny you ask because I got five today,'" he explained.

It is not just businesses, individuals are also getting notices sent to their homes for claims they have not filed.

If you happen to get one of these fraudulent claims, make sure to hold onto it and head to twc.texas.gov/reporting-fraud as soon as possible. There, you will be prompted to fill out a form and upload the claim to set the record straight.

You can also email TWC.fraud@twc.state.tx.us or leave a message on the TWC Fraud Hotline at 800-252-3642.

"It's just pure fraud, and if you do not take action, it's going to be very difficult to remedy this going forward," Scioli said.

That could increase unemployment rates for businesses or cause future problems when an individual tries to receive benefits down the line.

"If the scammers are successful, they're kind of rapidly depleting and unemployment insurance fund that a lot of people in the last year have really needed," Jacobson said.