HEBER SPRINGS — Area law enforcement reports and up-tick in fraud reports where a person’s identity is being used to falsely apply for unemployment benefits.

In the past several weeks 16 reports have been made to Heber Springs Police from someone whose name was used to apply for unemployment. Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown reports over 10 cases have been reported to his office in recent weeks.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement through her office July 2 which stated that office had received “... over 100 complaints...” of fraud unemployment applications.

An online-only application process, made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing guidelines, had made it easier for fraudulent claims to be filed, the Attorney General’s release stated.

Unfailingly, the local reports include that the person applying did not receive an unemployment check, and the person whose name was used to apply for the check was not affected. According to a Heber Springs Police Department spokesperson, the fraud is spotted when an employer receives notice of a claim being filed by an employee who is still employed by and working for the business.

The employer contacts the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services (ADWS) – the agency responsible for unemployment claims – and no payment is sent out. Claims seem to follow certain businesses, where a given business will receive several fraud unemployment request over a three or four day period, before the fraud moves to other businesses, the department spokesperson said.

A recent release from Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce cited the rise in fraudulent unemployment claims, and recommended business managers sign for ADWS electronic alerts, to speed the notification process and allow a quicker response in alerting of fraudulent claims.

The Attorney General’s July 2 release reminds that receiving funds, even if one did not apply for them, is unlawful.

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