'Fully employed' Hopewell grocery worker hit with tax bill for VEC benefits he never got

'Fully employed' Hopewell grocery worker hit with tax bill for VEC benefits he never got
Posted at 8:29 PM, Feb 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-11 20:29:46-05

HOPEWELL, Va. -- CBS6 told you last week about Brenda Ingram whose struggle to get her benefits from the Virginia Employment Commission was made a whole lot worse when she got hit with a $1,000 tax bill on the benefits someone had stolen.

Her story hit a nerve. More than a half-dozen people have contacted CBS6 saying they also received a tax form showing benefits they never got.

That includes a grocery store employee from Hopewell.

“I'd like to get this resolved, you know, so I don't have to pay taxes on it,” said John Lowder, who has been working steadily in the grocery business for years, including all through the pandemic.

That's why he was shocked recently to get a tax document in the mail from the VEC that puts him on the hook for hundreds of dollars.

“Three, four months ago, I got a ‘Way 2 Go’ card in the mail,” said Lowder. “And I remembered what it was from when I was on unemployment before, but I had no reason to get one. Because I've been working during the pandemic and everything. So, you know, I sat there and went on their website and filled out a fraud form, but just never heard back from them. So I just assumed it was just a mistake.”

But the Hopewell man said despite contacting the VEC immediately to fix the potential problem, it clearly wasn't enough to head off trouble. He learned that in January.

“When I got a 1099 in the mail, saying they had paid me benefits and I hadn't got any benefits,” said Lowder.

So once again Lowder went back to the phone, trying repeatedly, desperately, to reach the VEC before taxes are due in April.

“I tried to contact them, a couple of times,” Lowder said. “I've left voicemails. I've called, and they keep saying we have a 30-second hold time. And then I’ve literally waited 30 minutes. You know, it says somebody [will be on] within 30 seconds, but they never answered in 30 seconds. And so I'm just hoping I can get it solved before April 15.”

Lowder says because the VEC’s fraud hotline didn't seem to be working for him, he contacted CBS6.

He says while the tax on a thousand dollars of benefits might not seem like much, he definitely doesn't want to pay something he doesn't owe on benefits someone else stole.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m just worried,” said Lowder. “I was just glad they didn't do anything to affect my credit or anything. I don't know why they didn't get more money. But I’m thankful.”

Joyce Fogg, the spokesperson for the VEC, says the VEC expects more requests for amended 1099s.

She says anyone that gets a 1099 tax form from the VEC for benefits they did not receive must file a fraud report with the VEC. Then they can request an amended 1099 form. Ultimately, they may wish to file an identity theft alert with the attorney general's office.

She sent this email that includes links for all those tasks:

“Virginia, like all other states, has been the target of many attempts of fraud and identity theft this year. Even if we have been made aware of a fraudulent account filed under your name during the course of the year, despite our best efforts, we were not able to move all fraudulent claims of the victim's name prior to the printing or mailing of the 1099-G form."

We have a banner on our website with a link that will take you directly to the steps you need to take to correct this situation. You can also find the link here.

"If you were not aware of a fraudulent claim being filed, please complete the Fraud EZ form using the link in tab 3 or here. This will flag the claim for our fraud department to investigate. You can also review the information on our website regarding Unemployment Insurance Fraud, here is the link for that page.

If you have already reported the fraudulent claim, the next step will be submitting the request for the 1099-G review. This will allow our Payment Unit to review the documents you received and if appropriate submit a correction to you and the IRS. This needs to be done in writing with the link in tab 3 or 4 or by following this link.

Since you have received this documentation without filing a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits I would recommend that you file a police report of Identity Theft with your local police department, as that can serve as protection for other possible issues. The VEC investigates Unemployment Insurance theft for recovery of stolen funds, and partners with Local, State and Federal law enforcement to investigate the source of the fraud. However, we do not investigate Identity Theft. I am providing a link from the Office of the Attorney General providing important steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft.

I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you and appreciate your patience in providing the requested information so that we may correct any errors as quickly as possible.”

Ty Jackson reports that two weeks after CBS6 told his story, there has been little progress in fixing the fraud discovered in his VEC account.

Brenda Ingram reports the same.

CBS6 has heard from at least four others with the same ‘1099’ problem – the tax form that goes to the tax filer and the IRS that shows benefits someone else got.