Texas Workforce Commission Paid Out $506M To Suspicious Claimants, More Steps Taken To Combat Unemployment Fraud

While some fraud cases involve people who say they are unemployed but are actually working, TWC Director Ed Serna said the bigger problem is organized crime from nation states.

Video Transcript

- Since the start of the pandemic, more than a half a billion in Texas unemployment benefits have been paid out to potential fraudsters. Not good. I-Team reporter Brian New spoke with the Texas Workforce Commission director, he's Ed Serna, about what his agency is doing to combat all that fraud.

- You have reached the Texas Workforce Commission's fraud and abuse hotline.

BRIAN NEW: In the past year, we've heard from business owners.

- We knew automatically there was a problem.

BRIAN NEW: - those out of work who had benefits stolen.

- To know that somebody can just take your information and change it, is very, very crazy.

BRIAN NEW: As well as from those who never even applied for benefits.

- I've been employed for 40 years. Never been unemployed.

BRIAN NEW: All in the past year have been victims of unemployment identity theft. Since the start of the pandemic, the Texas Workforce Commission says $506 million has gone out to potential fraudsters. And while that's a small fraction of the total benefits, TWC director Ed Serna says, he's taking new steps to combat fraud.

ED SERNA: One of the steps that we've taken, we've hired a couple of data scientists to look over all the data, all those 7,000 claims, and try to find the anomalies in that data and then go back and hunt that down.

BRIAN NEW: While some fraud cases involve people who say they're unemployed but are actually working, the bigger problem.

ED SERNA: It's actually organized crime, nation states, that are engaged in this operation.

BRIAN NEW: Serna says the best way to stop this overseas crime is actually with the most local defense. And it requires everyone to pay attention to their mail.

ED SERNA: If they receive a notice from TWC, whether they are an employer or an individual, don't ignore it if you think it's a mistake. I didn't file for benefits. This is just junk mail. It's not a mistake. It means that somebody has filed a fraudulent claim.

BRIAN NEW: And so if you receive one of these notices, contact the Texas Workforce Commission. We have their fraud hotline as well as their fraud email address on our website at CBSDFW.com. Also there, you can catch our entire interview with Ed Serna. In Frisco, Brian New, CBS 11 News.