JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Sarah Hardiman has a job. So she was surprised to hear when her boss informed her she had apparently been approved for unemployment benefits.
"He said, 'What is this?' And I said, 'It looks like I'm going to collect unemployment, but I didn't apply for it,'" Hardiman said.
Sure enough, she was on the fast track to $188 a week. Hardiman said when she called the unemployment agency, it told her the debit card was probably on its way, too.
"She said, 'Tell me your name, address, phone number, give me your information, and I'm going to compare it,'" Hardiman said. "And she said, 'Someone has all of your information. You need to call the police.'"
Hardiman, who realized her identity had been stolen, did just that, in addition to putting a freeze on her credit.
Tom Stephens, president of the Better Business Bureau of Northeast Florida, said it doesn't take much for someone to steal an identity. Hardiman said she visited a St. Vincent's HealthCare doctor's office last month, and she knows they have all kinds of personal information on file.
"That's all they need, and file a claim and see what happens," Stephens said. "And they could be filing 10 claims at one time, with 10 different IDs and see what happens."
News4Jax interviewed a woman Monday who said she has two jobs, one at UF Health Jacksonville and one at St. Vincent's HealthCare, and also became the victim of identity theft, having been approved for unemployment benefits.
Two others in addition to Hardiman told News4Jax the same thing happened to them. One was also a patient at St. Vincent's and one is an employee for another agency that works out of the fifth floor of St. Vincent's Medical Center.
On Tuesday afternoon, St. Vincent's said this is a national investigation.
St. Vincent's issued a statement of its own, saying: "St. Vincent's will be alerting all of our associates to this multi-state scheme. We are encouraging employees to alert the authorities immediately if they receive suspicious communications -- including letters and calls about unemployment benefits."
For those who think they've become the victim of identity theft, the BBB offers this advice:
- Call any one of the three credit agencies and put a freeze on your credit.
- Check your credit to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary.
- File a police report and an ID theft affidavit, and then keep both of those on you just in case.
Baptist Health and Memorial Hospital said they have no reports of this happening to employees or patients. UF Health has yet to respond.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity said there are no known data breaches of information regarding the Reemployment Assistance program at this time.
To access a free copy of your credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
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