Ohio has significantly reduced fraudulent overpayments to people collecting unemployment insurance since instituting measures designed to identify and recover money from benefit cheats.
The state made about 7,500 unemployment insurance overpayments totalling $8.6 million in 2015, and it was on track to end 2016 with somewhat similar numbers, according to state data obtained by this newspaper.
That’s down from nearly 12,700 improper unemployment payments in 2013, totalling $19.7 million, the data show.
However, the overall number of recipients of unemployment benefits — and the amount they received in payments — has dropped significantly for multiple consecutive years.
Overpayments usually occur when people submit false or incomplete information in order to receive benefits.
In most cases of fraud, Ohioans fail to notify the state when they return to work so they can continue receiving unemployment benefits.
Fraud also occurs when Ohioans provide false information about the reason they are unemployed or collect unemployment compensation without actively seeking new employment, the state said.
But several years ago, the state began automatically referencing unemployment compensation claimants with a national database of new hires and with employment data from the state Office of Child Support, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and other agencies. The state now heavily relies on data mining and databases to detect fraud.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services also started intercepting federal tax refunds from people who fraudulently obtained benefits. Since joining that program, the state increased the amount of money it recovered from benefit cheats.
In December 2013, then 65-year-old George Daoud was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 14 months in prison for a variety of crimes including unemployment insurance fraud.
Daoud, who was the owner of Main Express Food Mart in Fairborn, improperly received unemployment benefits after claiming he was jobless even though he was running a business, prosecutors said.