There’s been a “dramatic increase” in unemployment claims filed in the past week in Michigan, so state officials are putting up fraud protections in hopes of blocking out criminals.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has flagged about 100,000 claims ‘likely filed by criminals,’ the agency said in a news release Wednesday, April 7.
Payments to those accounts have been halted until the identity of each claimant can be verified.
“We continue to be vigilant in protecting the integrity of the system and the benefits for those who rightfully deserve them,” said acting UIA Director Liza Estlund Olson in the release.
Most of the fraud is coming via the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which is paid for via temporary federal aid and not Michigan unemployment dollars. Criminals have been posing as self-employed workers or independent contractors to get the money, the release said.
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More than 500,000 claims were halted last spring for potential fraud. While many were fraudulent, at least 100,000 were legitimate claims, so many were wrongfully denied payments for weeks if not longer.
The UIA estimated in the fall that it paid “hundreds of millions of dollars” to fraudulent claims in 2020. Most of that came from federal coffers and not state funds, however.
As of March 13, Michigan had more than 940,000 people still claiming unemployment benefits.
What if you’re a victim of unemployment identity theft?
Some criminals impersonate others using previously stolen information to get unemployment money. No personal data from claimants has been stolen from the UIA, the agency said.
The UIA sends snail mail to people whose claims are suspicious, called a “Request for Information letter.” If you received this letter but aren’t claiming unemployment, you may be a victim of unemployment identity theft.
Anytime someone files for benefits, a “monetary determination letter” is sent via the mail. If you get one of these letters and didn’t apply for unemployment, that’s another red flag.
To report unemployment identity theft, visit Michigan.gov/UIA and click on “Report Fraud or Identity Theft.” Here are some other state tips to protect yourself against identity theft.
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