Tenn. Dept. of Labor investigates thousands of fraud claims

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A South Memphis woman told FOX13 someone tried to steal her Tennessee unemployment benefits. Her story serves as a warning for others. She alerted the state but said the process delayed her getting the benefits she needed.

Rickesha Albright lost her job in the education and daycare industry in June, a victim of the pandemic.

Albright filed for unemployment but said the process seemed to take forever.

“There is a car note. There is insurance. There is a light bill. There are things that are adding up,” Albright said.

Albright said when she was finally able to speak to someone at the unemployment office in Nashville, they told her the benefits cards had been mailed to her. That was in late July.

“And he asked me had I received my card. And I said, ’What card?’” Albright told FOX13.

Albright told the unemployment office someone had changed her password, profile, and mailing address. Weeks of unemployment benefits were delivered to a home where Albright told FOX13 she doesn’t live and never has.

“I was hurt. I was baffled. I was livid. I had so many different emotions because I could not believe what I was hearing,” Albright said.

FOX13 emailed the Tennessee Department of Labor and Work Force Development to inquire about Albright’s case.

A spokesman replied stating the department “is investigating a case of possible stolen identity regarding Rickesha Albright’s unemployment claim … The debit cards in question were never used because the vendor froze the accounts after the suspicious activity.”

Albright did get her employment benefit card, seven days after learning she was a victim of fraud but said the wait was agonizing.

“I was so upset and angry because you are taking away from me, you are taking away from my children,” she said.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Work Force Development told FOX13 since March 15 it has investigated more than 3,300 claims of fraud involving benefits.

That seems like a lot but it is less than a half percent of the 795,000 claims.

The department said it still takes the crime seriously.