ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state is demanding that an Albuquerque family pay taxes on unemployment funds they never received and they believe other families are stuck with the same problem. The headache for the Ohlsens kicked in last year when a debit card arrived in the mail, filled with unemployment benefits they didn’t ask for.
“It turned out the EPPI card is for the unemployment benefits, which I thought was funny because my husband was still employed,” said Sara Ohlsen. “I looked at him and asked him, ‘when did you apply for unemployment benefits,’ and he said, ‘I didn’t,’ and I said, ‘well we’ve got a problem.'”
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Refusing to activate the debit card, Ohlsen called the Department of Workforce Solutions, the cabinet secretary, and the fraud tip line. Yet with endless calls, she never actually got through to a person.
“I left a detailed message with the card number, the CVV number, the expiration date, you name it, I gave it to them,” said Ohlsen. “I said, ‘this is not my husband. He did not file for unemployment. This is definitely identity theft and fraud.'”
She says the message always said, “someone will get back to you,” but no one ever did. After weeks of calling and leaving messages, they went on with their lives until a 1099 tax form arrived this week for nearly $16,000 in unemployment benefits.
“We’re going to have to pay taxes on that and we didn’t see a penny of it,” said Ohlsen. “It made me so mad I couldn’t see straight because I had done the right thing.”
Ohlsen quickly filed another fraud complaint online. She says after getting the runaround from the Attorney General’s Office — who told her to contact the governor — and even employment attorneys — who told her to reach out to her state senator and representative — she’s at a loss for what to do.
“I’m doing whatever I can because I don’t feel I should have to pay the taxes on money I did not receive,” said Ohlsen. “Very frustrated because it’s so easy now with computers, unfortunately, for you to be damaged in no time flat.”
The Ohlsens are both in their 70s. Frustrated and left with more questions than answers, they now worry how the fraud may affect their future — from IRS penalties if they don’t pay those taxes, to their retirement fund taking a hit if they do.
“What’s it going to be, another six months before I hear from them? Another six months that they’re paying benefits to someone who probably doesn’t deserve them?” said Ohlsen. “He would love to retire. I would like for him to retire. But this kind of mistake, it’s going to put us back probably another couple years, because it’ll have to come out of our retirement if we have to pay it.”
If you’ve received a 1099 form for fraudulent unemployment money, you’re asked to contact Workforce Solutions and fill out their 1099 inquiry form. Those who believe they may be a victim of identity theft through unemployment should also fill out a fraud affidavit, file a police report, and call the unemployment insurance fraud tip line at 505-243-7283. Workforce Solutions says this month alone, they’ve sent out 1099 forms to more than 170,000 New Mexicans.