Columbia, SC (WLTX) -According to the Department of Employment and Workforce, every year thousands of people in our state are receiving unemployment benefits who don't qualify for them.
In 2011, 80 million dollars was paid out to people defrauding the system. And last year, he number was 54 million dollars.
"It is disheartening when an individual continues to receive unemployment benefits and they know that they should not be doing so," said DEW Spokesperson Adrienne Fairwell.
For the past few years, individuals have fraudulently used a department whose mission is to assist those in need.
"People go back to work and then they do not properly report their income or their wages," said Fairwell.
The fraud is twofold, individuals who are not reporting that they have found a job... and others who are blatantly taking money. Fairwell says they are now putting more emphasis stopping that from happening.
"As an agency we know have systems in place to help us better audit those claims, to detect unemployment insurance fraud and improper payments."
DEW is now working with the Treasury department and if you took money that you weren't owed you're going to have to pay it back; one way is with your tax refund.
"You go file your individual income tax return and if you owe the state's Department of Employment and Workforce, then instead of you getting your refund, it comes to the agency."
Fairwell says the tax interception has already brought the department 1.5 million dollars within the last two weeks. The fraud is done on a case by case basis, some resulting in civil lawsuits and fines.
"We are definitely as an agency aware that there are weaknesses and we are also working to improve those."
Another step that the department is taking is working to keep inmates and others from fraudulently receiving benefits.
"We are pleased with the direction that we are heading because we are progressing in terms of our prevention, collection and detection."
Fairwell says part of the problem is educating people so that they know the rules. For example, when they find a job, they need to let the agency know immediately so their benefits will stop. The department has also created an Integrity task force to help prevent fraud.