She says the VEC paid a fraudster her benefits. Now she has to pay over $1,000 on stolen benefits

She says the VEC paid a fraudster her benefits. Now she has to pay over $1,000 on stolen benefits
Posted at 4:08 PM, Feb 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 16:08:30-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Last week, CBS6 brought you the story of Ty Jackson, an IT worker who was trying to get his unemployment benefits from last year after the Virginia Employment Commission said someone had collected them in his name.

A spokeswoman told CBS6 last Friday that his fraud claim had been resolved, but in fact, a week later he was only able to retrieve his PIN. His case is far from resolution.

Then another viewer, who was also the victim of fraud on her VEC account, pointed out that Jackson might be liable for the tax due on benefits someone else had stolen.

She just got a 1099 tax form, which shows she could owe more than $1,000 to the IRS.

“The system went down before the first year was over, then it was down for over a month and then it came back and went back down,” said Brenda Ingram. “New system, old system, it doesn't matter, because the people that answer the phone, when you talk to them, don't have a clue what's going on.”

Ingram's journey through the VEC bureaucracy began in March of 2020 when the Department of Corrections contract she was working under expired.

But the start of the pandemic meant few new jobs and closed schools, so she became her grandchild's caregiver.

She applied for and got pandemic benefits. But when she applied for the new program in September of that year, her trouble began.

“I never could figure out why, because apparently that was the same time that the fraud started on my account, and I didn't know it,” Ingram said. “I filed an appeal. I've talked to several people, and no one could ever figure it out. No one could help me because they don't talk to each other. Somehow, they don't know what's going on.”

For the next year, Ingram tried everything she could to get through to the VEC, but no one could resolve how someone was apparently able to steal her benefits.

“It didn't tell me that in the first letter,” she said. “In the second letter, they knew right away, like, ‘Oh, this is fraud, yeah, we know about it. We'll, we'll take care of it.’ But they never took care of it.”

She says the VEC's dedicated fraud hotline didn't help either.

“So after two or three tries, I gave up, and I didn't know what else to do,” Ingram said. “Because nothing over there works. None of their systems. And I just gave up.”

But exasperation wasn't the only nuisance Ingram faced: this week she got a 1099 tax form which is also sent to the IRS. It shows more than $5,000 in benefits that the VEC supposedly paid her.

Now she could be facing that $1,000 tax bill and worse, be forced to pay a lot more in the insurance marketplace for her health insurance.

“They definitely need to fix this, because it's going to cost me a lot of money in taxes and insurance premium hikes,” said Ingram. “But because I've had to go this far with them, I also want to be paid what I was owed.”

Ingram says being denied the money she was owed is one thing, but now having to pay tax and possibly losing her healthcare coverage has this Powhatan grandmother reaching out to whomever she can for help including her state delegate.

“It's just ridiculous that they can't get anything straight, even when you finally get a hold of them,” Ingram said. “And I actually even made a fraud claim to the unemployment office, because I wanted them to take a look at this and fix it, and they never did. They never even sent me a letter, and months later, here it is February.”

I asked VEC spokeswoman Joyce Fogg how many fraud cases like Ingram's and Ty Jackson’s the VEC is investigating, and especially, how many amended 1099 tax form requests the VEC has been asked for.

If the VEC does not amend the form, the IRS expects the tax payment.

Fogg did not respond.

CBS6 connected Ingram with a tax specialist who might be able to help her and I will continue to follow their cases.