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Don’t Get Blindsided by Unemployment Fraud Claims

Information provided by Gabe L., Smithville’s Director of Information Security

The extraordinary expansion of unemployment benefits by Congress as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a sharp rise in fraudulent unemployment cases. Unemployment fraud involves a process where criminals use others’ personal information to file for unemployment benefits on their behalf and then pocket the money for themselves. Criminals will deploy a series of methods to obtain personal information, including phishing, utilizing fake websites and social media, and purchasing user information off the dark web. Victims of unemployment fraud are often left with a bureaucratic mess to unravel.

To help detect and respond to identify fraud and unemployment fraud, follow the steps below.

Detection by mail: 

Open your mail. Yes, even that pesky junk mail. One of the first clues that you may be a victim of unemployment fraud is through your mail. When people file for unemployment benefits, they may receive letters in the mail from their respective state’s employment bureaus about the status of their unemployment benefits claims, approvals, request for more information, and other communications. It is also possible for you to receive a debit card in the mail that would allow you to access unemployment benefits. Do not activate or use the card. If you received such communications but did not file for unemployment benefits, then you may be a victim of unemployment fraud.

While you are opening your mail, make sure to comb through the mountain of credit card and debit card offer you receive. You may have a notice or a bill for a live credit or debit card that was fraudulently opened in your name.

Lastly, be on the lookout for a 1099-G. That is the tax form for anyone who received unemployment benefits. If you received one in the mail and did not file for unemployment benefits, you may be the victim of unemployment fraud.

Detection by credit and ChexSystem Report:     

Your personal information is valuable, and criminals may use it for a myriad of nefarious activities. If the criminal gets ahold of your data and decides to use it to open a credit card or a bank account in your name, they may also be able to use it to file for unemployment benefits. A rounded view of your financial history may assist in the detection of unemployment fraud.

Credit reports provide you an excellent way to preview the status of your outstanding credit card accounts, utilities, mortgages, and other loans. When you apply for a loan, lenders may request to run your credit to evaluate if you can repay that loan. It can also help you identify accounts fraudulently opened with your personal information. Through April 2021, you can go to annualcreditreports.com to get a weekly copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

You should also request your ChexSystem report by going to chexsystem.com. A ChexSystem report operates similarly to a credit report, but it involves checking and savings accounts. When you apply for a new checking or savings account, banks may review your consumer history using a tool called ChexSystem before they approve or deny your request. By requesting both your credit report and ChexSystem report, individuals can work to verify that no fraudulent accounts were created in their name.

Response:

  1. Report the unemployment fraud to the state.

Report any case of unemployment fraud to your state bureau that manages unemployment benefits. The United States Department of Labor provides a link to each state’s fraud reporting website. For example, if you live work in Indiana, you would report the unemployment fraud to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

  1. Report the unemployment fraud to the police.

Report any case of unemployment fraud to the state police or the relevant regulatory agency as directed by the state. For example, if you live in Indiana, in addition to reporting the fraud to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, you would also report the unemployment fraud to the Indiana State Police.

  1. Report the unemployment fraud to your employer.

Report any case of unemployment fraud with your employer. By notifying your employer of the unemployment fraud claim, you provide them an additional opportunity to contest the claim with their state labor department.

For the taxpayers that did receive an incorrect Form 1099-G, do not fret. The Internal Revenue Service has published guidance on January 28, 2021, that helps taxpayers by instructing them that if they are “unable to obtain a timely, corrected form from states should still file an accurate tax return, reporting only the income they received.”

Smithville Employees Share Holiday Spirit

Smithville employees made the holiday season brighter by purchasing toys and clothing for 25 area children through the Salvation Army Angel Tree program.

The initiative was sponsored by the Smithville Engaged team, a group of employees working to encourage engagement between employees and the communities we serve. This is another way employees are able to work together and give back to those in our communities.

For more information about the Angel Tree program and how you can get involved click here.

Cloud-Based Gaming Means Big Bandwidth Usage

Faster broadband speeds fuel optimal online gaming.

Gamers are counting down the days for the release of the long-awaited PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X next month. In the lead-up to the release of the next generation of consoles, both companies have allowed players to utilize cloud gaming technology, indicating that the cloud may be the future of gaming.
Cloud-based gaming services have a huge upside. They give users instant access to hundreds of games with 4K resolution and crystal-clear surround sound. They can stream to any of their devices, even smartphones, which means users can pause a game on one device and pick it up seamlessly on another. But all these benefits come with a price. High-def streaming monopolizes bandwidth, which means those with slower connection speeds may not be happy with their experience.
Google burst on the scene last year with its cloud-based service Stadia. Sony and Microsoft are now jumping on board with Playstation Now and Game Pass.
Each of the platforms operate similarly in that a monthly subscription provides instant access to a vast catalog of games. With Google, Microsoft and Sony all vying to be the Netflix of online gaming, you should review your network connection to be sure you enjoy a fast, smooth gaming experience.
Streaming 4K quality games requires a tremendous amount of bandwidth to operate in high-def with low latency. A broadband connection of at least 35 Mbps, upload and download, is recommended for operation. Keep in mind that is just a minimum recommendation — and that doesn’t factor in other devices using your connection. Some users have reported the graphics are not as sharp at lower speeds, and even those with 100 Mbps can experience noticeable input lag, though their graphics are better.
That’s not to mention the other people in your home. If you want to stream a movie or make a video call in another room while someone is using the game system, you’ll need a connection big enough to handle it all.
Users can also expect cloud-based games to drag on their Wi-Fi networks. And those with older routers may need an upgrade if they want optimal performance. In fact, Microsoft recommends users connect with a wired connection and “limit the use of other network-connected devices to get the best experience.”
Game streaming services require a tremendous amount of bandwidth to ensure high-resolution gameplay with low latency.
For most platforms, users will want at least 35 Mbps for 4K resolution and 5.1 surround sound. To get up to 1080p resolution, you’ll need at least 20 Mbps in addition to the usage from any other connected devices in the home.
Google has created a test page to test your connection speed to see what type of resolution you can expect in Stadia. You can also check your speed at TestMy.net or highspeedinternet.com.
Although cloud gaming is still in its infancy, there are several indicators that the future of the game industry might be heading in this direction. After all, remember what Netflix was like 10 years ago? If you or someone in your home plan to use your new console for cloud gaming this Christmas, be sure you have enough broadband speed to enjoy your high-def gaming.

Smithville Spotlight: Tiffany A., Scheduler

When asked to describe her time here at Smithville in three words, Tiffany A., Scheduler, replied “educational, rewarding, exciting.” Since joining the Smithville team in 2019 she’s learned so much about our service and installation process and has a passion for providing a great customer experience.

Before we learned about her role at Smithville, we asked some hard-hitting questions to get to know her better:

    • Hometown: Lawrenceville, Georgia (raised in Spencer, Indiana)
    • Favorite TV Show: Probably a tie between Schitt’s Creek and What We Do in the Shadows
    • Favorite Movie: Not a movie exactly, but I love the Planet Earth documentaries
    • Favorite Food: Sushi
    • What she likes to do in free time: Compose music, play guitar, hang out with my son and husband
    • Dream vacation destination: Ireland
    • Favorite quotes: “To achieve great things two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.” -Leonard Bernstein and “I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” -John Cage

 

As part of our Scheduling team, Tiffany plays a critical role for our customers and makes sure service gets installed accurately and in a timely manner. It’s much more than scheduling a time, though. The Scheduling team takes an order for service and makes sure all steps are required and in place to get customers connected. “My day is a mixture of inbound and outbound calls. In both instances, I am determining what needs done to get a customer set up with service. Duties range from scheduling customers, assisting technicians, talking with the supervisors, answering all emails, and projects assigned by our supervisor related to information gathering, updating information, and various orders and tickets.” The work of taking an order and making sure it gets installed correctly is a large task that requires a lot of knowledge. “Most people would be surprised by the amount of knowledge that is required to work here. We have to be very informed about the technology and installation process.”

Tiffany’s time at Smithville has been rewarding and has offered the opportunity to learn new skills. Working on new projects and processes have been welcome challenges. “The most rewarding thing since joining Smithville has been helping train my team on new software and projects. I have worked with my supervisor to implement new processes for providing services to renters and I was able to create the process and means to get that started.”

Tiffany appreciates the opportunities available at Smithville for growth, and that’s one of the big reasons she joined the team. “I feel like I can grow at Smithville. Many of my other jobs did not give opportunities for movement to different positions. You could go slightly upward but staying in the exact same role but with more responsibility. At Smithville, I feel like I can move into other departmental roles and find my best fit. Also, the company environment is much more friendly and family like. I feel like I am a valued member of the Smithville team.”

We’re looking forward to Tiffany’s future growth at Smithville and know that customers appreciate her hard work. She said it best when describing her passion for being at Smithville:  “My favorite part of working here is feeling like I have the ability to make positive change within and outside Smithville.”

Smithville Security Voted #1 in Best of Btown Awards

 

We’re thrilled to announce that Smithville Security was voted #1 in The Herald-Times Best of Btown Awards! Overall 9,266 people cast a total of 167,084 votes for their favorite Bloomington-area businesses in a wide range of categories in June. This was a 156% voting increase over last year. This award means so much to us because it’s selected by people in the community we serve. We’re so grateful to our customers for putting their trust in us to protect their homes and businesses.

To celebrate we are offering free basic installation and equipment on our smart home security starter package, a $625 value. Simply use promo code “Smart Home” when you call to receive this limited time free installation offer. Whether you are looking for a solution to protect against intruders, alert you to potential hazards or just welcome you home after a long day, we have the perfect solution for your home and business. Call today at 800-742-4084 or visit us online at smithvillesecurity.com.

Smithville Spotlight: Claressa E., Corporate Trainer

When asked to describe her time here at Smithville in three words, Claressa E., Smithville’s Corporate Trainer, replied “growth through relationship.” Growth relates to her own personal development, but also that of Smithville employees. Her passion for training employees, developing skills, and helping to grow careers is evident.

Before we learned about her role at Smithville, we asked some hard-hitting questions to get to know her better:

  • Hometown: Evansville, IN
  • Favorite TV Show: One Piece
  • Favorite Movie: Too many! Top picks would all be something Sci-Fi
  • Favorite Food: Home-cooked (i.e. My mom’s home), comfort food
  • What she likes to do in free time: Spending time with family and friends, listening to/discovering new music, watching movies/anime
  • Dream vacation destination: Santorini, Greece
  • Favorite quote: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” -Unknown
  • Something those on the outside looking in would be surprised about: How prevalent the idea that “WE are Smithville” is among employees. And how funny Ms. Darby can be!

 

Claressa joined Smithville in 2011 as a Customer Service Representative. She went through an extensive training process that sparked her interest in employee development. “I trained under Charlie Flinn and, while still in training, I told him that he needed some help & as soon as I learned the job, I would come back & work with him.  Charlie retired before that happened, but I did move to the L&D department in 2015.”

When Claressa joined Smithville she immediately found a friendly work environment. “I found that the owners were accessible and approachable, which is not something that happens often in corporate America. Being a family-owned business seems to cultivate a feeling of family among the employees as well. It’s also great working for a place where you believe in the products and services that we offer. No one (locally) can touch our network operations or our data over fiber service.”

Like many positions at Smithville, each day is unique and different for Claressa and that keeps things fresh and exciting. “Our duties fluctuate based on projects from other departments that may need our help in adoption and education to new hires that need onboarding and possibly training. We are responsible for jobs aids for several departments and those have to be created & maintained, and our training curriculums must be kept up to date, including scenarios and assessment materials.  And in order to train or facilitate effectively, we must be trained and certified as well, via courses offered on a national level or online seminars & WebEx meetings.” While that is a lot to manage, it is an important part of making sure Smithville’s employees are trained, confident, and prepared to take care of customers.

Over the last nine years, several projects and accomplishments have stood out for Claressa. “Joining the Learning & Development team and creating some of the core programs our department uses on a regular basis are great accomplishments. But I’d say the most rewarding would be the interaction with and success of the new hires that I’ve onboarded and trained since I’ve been in this position. Their success is our success.” Claressa helped to develop a new hire onboarding process that introduces employees to the many different departments and people at Smithville and shares important programs and resources available. This program has been well received by both new hires and supervisors at Smithville.

Throughout many different projects and initiatives one thing has remained for Claressa, when asked about her favorite aspect of working at Smithville: “Interaction with coworkers and helping others grow and succeed.” We’re looking forward to the success of many future new hires, thanks to her efforts and dedication.

Smithville Spotlight – Jim T., Maintenance Assistant

Jim T., Maintenance Assistant, is well known around Smithville. In his role he is able to work on maintenance requests across all Smithville locations, helping out wherever needed. Smithville employees love seeing him around, and his presence always brings a smile to their faces.

Before we learned more about Jim, we asked him some very important questions:

    • Hometown: Ellettsville, IN
    • Favorite TV Show: The 3 Stooges
    • Favorite Movie: Caddy Shack
    • Favorite Food: Spam! And of course, spaghetti and steak
    • What he likes to do in free time: Golf and play drums
    • Dream vacation destination: Other than Gosport, Hawaii of course!
    • Favorite quote: “If you’re not the lead dog the scenery never changes”

 

Jim joined Smithville nine years ago. He had a background helping with maintenance, and the position at Smithville was a perfect fit, allowing him to help others. “My day goes very fast with preventative maintenance and maintaining facilities and grounds and helping people in need.”

Helping others is in Jim’s nature, and working together as a team is what motivates him each day. “I love being able to work with all types individuals in every department. I think people may not realize just how professional and courteous we are as a company and individually.”

Working at Smithville has offered many rewards for Jim. “All of the benefits offered and vacation time is great, but most of all the people I have the opportunity to work with is a huge reward.” He also has been able to expand his knowledge and skills of maintenance issues while working these past nine years.

As Jim travels to Smithville locations across the state, including Sharpsville, French Lick, Jasper, and Griffin, he logs a lot of miles. At Smithville’s annual Night of Champions in 2018 he was honored as the 2018 Safety Champion. He traveled the most miles of anyone in the company and had a stellar safety and speed record. His attention to detail and the safety of himself, coworkers, and customers led him to receive the coveted Smithville gold cone award, one of our signature orange cones placed outside vehicles for safety spray painted gold.

When asked to describe his time here at Smithville in three words, he said “rewarding, exciting, and fulfilling.” His coworkers would agree, and they look forward to seeing him at one of our many locations whenever he stops by.

Smithville Spotlight: John B., Project Manager

When asked to describe his time at Smithville in three words, John B., Project Manager, said “My opinion matters.” Although he recently joined the team, he brings years of experience and a fresh perspective that has been welcomed in Project Management.

Before we learned more about John, we asked some very important questions to get to know him better:

    • Hometown: West Terre Haute, IN
    • Favorite TV Show: The Voice
    • Favorite Movie: Forrest Gump
    • Favorite Food: Cheeseburgers
    • What He Likes to do In Free Time: Raising goats and spending time with his family, including 2 granddaughters
    • Dream Vacation Destination: Italy
    • Favorite Quote: “Treat others how you want to be treated.”

 

John came to Smithville with over 30 years in the telecommunications industry. His passion for helping lead projects serves him well in his role here at Smithville. “I retired from AT&T but still felt like I had a lot to offer a company and really wasn’t ready to not work. I applied for several jobs over a course of a year and none ever felt like the right fit until I applied at Smithville. During the interview process I felt welcomed and like I was already an employee, which made me even more excited when I accepted the position as Project Manager.”

Our Project Management department helps get new initiatives or process improvements up and running, while making sure every key stakeholder is involved and informed.  That communication is key to success, and something that is very rewarding to John. “As a Project Manager I attend various project calls during the day and work on existing projects.  I really like the fact that we get to work on almost all new or changing initiatives the company is pursuing!  It can be challenging but also rewarding at the completion of accomplishing what you have planned.” Another rewarding aspect of the job has his ability to help coworkers. “The most rewarding thing I’ve accomplished so far has been letting my manager have a vacation without worrying about what was happening while she was away.”

One of the most surprising things to John since he joined in June is the warm environment and family-feel. “I compare Smithville to that little country store you go in and everyone says hi.  There doesn’t seem to be a stranger at Smithville, and everyone likes and wants to come to work. I even get to walk by and see the CEO of the company every day.”

We can’t wait to see what project John works on next and are looking forward to the future.

Smithville Spotlight: Brad H., Outside Plant Engineer

Keeping Hoosiers connected is our mission here at Smithville. Brad H., Outside Plant Engineer, ensures we can do just that. His work helps to maintain accurate plant records and ensure new fiber projects are engineered and mapped correctly.

Before we learned about his background and skills, we asked some hard-hitting questions:

      • Hometown: Dolan, IN
      • Favorite TV Show: Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings
      • Favorite Movie: The Goonies & any Star Wars movie
      • Favorite Food: A good sirloin steak on the grill
      • What he likes to do in free time: Work on his restored 1971 Chevy C10 truck
      • Dream vacation destination: Alaska
      • Favorite quote: “Your future is whatever you make it.” -Doc Brown, Back to the Future

 

Brad started his career at a small panel manufacturing plant in Mooresville, IN, where he utilized and honed his skills in architectural design. He came to Smithville in 2015, after 20 years there in a management position. After a year as Outside Plant Engineering Technician he was promoted to Outside Plant Engineer. Since coming to Smithville he has been able to work on many exciting projects. “Probably the most rewarding thing that I have accomplished would be the fiber to the home overbuild projects that I have designed – Greenbrier Meadows, Prominence Point, Arrow Head, Deer Run, Ellettsville North, Thomas Reeves and Hartstraight Rd.” These projects upgraded existing DSL service to fiber optics, offering the latest technology for growing customer demands for streaming, gaming, and working from home.

A typical day for Brad involves working on many different projects. He may be answering questions about new or existing lines, designing new Enterprise fiber construction plans, keeping fiber records up to date, or working with contractors on a fiber construction build. No matter the assignment, though, working with the people at Smithville is rewarding. “My favorite aspect of working at Smithville would have to be working with such a great and talented group of people. Someone on the outside looking in would be surprised by the friendly and caring atmosphere from not only all the employees, but from leadership as well.”

The work environment at Smithville is something special, and something that Brad hadn’t seen before. Employee events and initiatives help keep everyone connected, even though they may be in separate departments. “Smithville is a more family-friendly atmosphere. Events such as Fun in the Sun and the Night of Champions, where employees can invite and involve family members, are appreciated. You don’t see that kind of atmosphere just anywhere.”

When asked to describe his time here at Smithville in three words, Brad said “exciting, challenging, and friendly.” That describes what has made his time here at Smithville productive and rewarding. We can’t wait to see what project Brad works on next and are looking forward to the future.

Kimberly Pitcher, Plant Engineering Manager, Inaugural Woman in Fiber Spotlight Winner

Smithville’s own Kimberly Pitcher, Plant Engineering Manager, has been announced as the Fiber Broadband Association‘s inagural Woman in Fiber spotlight winner! These spotlights are a new initiative to highlight different roles and careers for women in fiber, telecom, tech, and construction.

Jason Dauby, Chief Technology Officer, had this to say about Kimberly: “Kim is a role model, the only female in plant engineering where she brilliantly manages a team of men. She demonstrates calm efficiency, managing diverse issues as they arise, coordinating with the network engineering, construction, and I&R departments. She represents Smithville as an expert in her field, sits on panels and is always aware of what’s coming that will impact the industry.”

To read more about Kimberly, check out the Woman in Fiber Spotlight on our Women in Fiber LinkedIn page or the Fiber Broadband Association website, www.fiberbroadband.org/page/women-in-fiber. Congratulations, Kimberly!