Online job application used as front to steal Florida woman’s identity

Victim says her name was used to apply for California unemployment benefits

Two words capture the moment Melisa Johnson realized her name was used to apply for unemployment benefits in another state: “I panicked.”

The former assistant operations director said she traveled and worked remotely from her Florida home until April 2020 when she was fired because the company was sold.

That started an online job search on Indeed, taking her to what appeared to be a promising lead but turned out to be a high-stakes scheme to steal her identity and more.

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“My dilemma was he had every piece of identity,” she said. “He had everything you would put on a job application.”

Johnson thought she was applying for a sales marketing position for a Med Spa center in Kansas.

“I looked the company up online,” she said. “It was a legit company.”

It turned out imposters were using the company name as a front, pretending to conduct job interviews from California while collecting information to apply for unemployment benefits in that state.

She received a text message that read: “Your ID has been used to apply for California unemployment.”

Johnson alerted California’s unemployment office that she had not applied for benefits. When she challenged the man who claimed to be representing the company she recalled he went into denial mode.

“His demeanor changed and his accent changed,” Johnson said. “He said ‘No ma’am, this is not anything fraudulent.’”

The man who called himself Michael claimed to be a 3rd party company conducting job interviewed for Med Spa.

She called the Kansas company and confirmed her suspicions, there were no job openings posted on Indeed, it was all a con game.

“A year and a half of struggling and now somebody’s going to steal my identity, I was like ‘Oh my God!’”, she said.

She contacted the police, placed a hold on all her bank accounts and started looking for work again. She has since landed an accounting position but was unable to access her or Department of Economic Opportunity accounts.

Johnson is still owed two months of state unemployment benefits.

Make Ends Meet contacted and her account was unlocked, which allowed her to access her DEO Connect account but she quickly discovered it was locked.

“If I can’t get into my account how am I going to get my tax documents!” she said.

The DEO is working to unlock her account and should have it updated in the next week.

DEO Communications Director Emilie Oglesby told News 6 anyone who suspects they are a victim of fraud should file a report with the Reemployment Assistance Help Center.

“This will help our team in identifying and locking any fraudulent accounts, " Oglesby said.

You can get assistance on unemployment issues as well, just click here.

There is also a fraud assistance kit available, click here to find it.

Remember if you have an unemployment issue and need our help email or text the words make ends meet to 407-676-7428.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.