TWIN LAKES -- — Nicole Nelson's husband, Bryan, is a self-employed landscaper in Wisconsin. He didn't apply for unemployment benefits in our state or any other state.
So, it was a head-scratcher when the Twin Lakes man received a 1099 tax form in the mail from Ohio's Department of Jobs and Family Services for $6,057 of unemployment compensation.
"Does your husband have any tie whatsoever to Ohio? Kristin Byrne asked Nicole Nelson.
"No. A lot of people have asked us, do you have relatives in Ohio? Do you have friends? Nothing," Nelson said.
"Someone else is collecting money on us and we can't even collect it and we're struggling so it's huge to have to worry about paying taxes on this," Nelson said.
In an FBI alert sent over the summer, it says receiving a 1099 showing benefits collected from unemployment insurance is one way victims of identity theft are finding out they've been targeted. The FBI says victims are also finding out they've been targeted when they try to file a claim or learn about it from their state's unemployment agency or employer.
Throughout the pandemic, identity theft cases have infiltrated unemployment agencies across the country.
Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development says as of February 8th, it's had 37,464 Social Security numbers from claims flagged for suspected fraud.
The DWD told TMJ4 News it has "more than 790,000 unique social security numbers (as of Feb. 8), so that's less than 5 percent."
Also, the DWD says "just because something is flagged doesn't necessarily indicate fraud."
The DWD doesn't keep track of cases involving other states like the Nelson's.
The Nelson's have reached out to Ohio's unemployment agency, but getting through has been a challenge.
"The lines are so backed up. You like hit one for fraud and they're just like, call back at another time," Nelson said.
When TMJ4 News contacted them, we received an emailed response saying the agency is "...overwhelmed with calls and emails."
The email provided recommendations for those who suspect they've been a victim of identity theft.
Nicole Nelson was able to report her case on the agency's website and is waiting and hoping this doesn't hurt her family in the end.
"Is it your fear that you could be audited if you don't pay taxes on this?" Byrne asked Nelson.
"Oh, of course, it is. So if I'm audited then let them do the digging," Nelson said.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft related to unemployment insurance claims, the DWD encourages you to report it to Federal Trade Commission
and monitor your credit reports for any fraudulent activity.
The IRS also has advice for taxpayers who believe they were targeted.