More hacking victims come forward in Ohio unemployment thefts

ODJFS reportedly refuses to accept blame for the account hacks, and it’s unclear whether it will pay the victims what they’re owed.
New victims come forward claiming unemployment benefits were stolen
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 8:31 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - More Tri-State residents relying on unemployment benefits following a sudden job loss are coming forward with the astonishing revelation that their benefits have been stolen.

On Wednesday, FOX19 NOW reported thousands of dollars worth of unemployment benefits are being stolen in what Cybersecurity experts call an “account takeover” or an “account hijacking.”

Cybercriminals get into an unemployment account, change the bank routing number to the number of an account they control, and steal benefit money before the victim even knows it.

One of the most egregious cases comes out of Lima, where at least 20 UAW union members reportedly had their Ohio unemployment accounts hacked and their benefits stolen.

Now many more victims are coming out of the woodwork, like Lawrence Walker and Jeff Ingle.

“I was told from one of the representatives that it’s happening to multiple people throughout the state,” Walker said, “and that someone hacked the system and hacked into the unemployment office’s website and changed my bank account information.”

“They said, ‘Yeah, that our system was hacked on May 9, and the money’s gone,’” Ingle said. “‘You have to call the FBI, they’ll take care of it for you. We can’t do anything and it’s not our fault.’”

FOX19 NOW Investigates was told by ODJFS they had not been hacked since the pandemic started.

Julie Smith, ODFJS deputy director, doubled down on that stance last week, referencing only fishing attacks and the like.

FOX19 NOW Cybersecurity expert Dave Hatter says account takeover schemes are not new.

“Account takeovers are a huge issue,” Hatter explained.

Hatter says individuals must do their part to protect themselves, especially if they have the same password for more than one account.

“If the hackers can get your information for any one account, then they potentially have access to all of your accounts or at least all the ones where that shared,” Hatter said.

Adding to the frustration of victims, ODJFS says they are reviewing the cases and their policy on whether they will repay account hijacking victims the money they are due.

“When you steal payments, you know, when these payments are being stolen, your identities being stolen, the unemployment office is freezing your cases for two or three weeks,” Walker said. ”It’s digging bigger ditches than you’re already, you know, building... like a crab in a bucket.”

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