LANSING, Mich. – The Unemployment Insurance Agency today provided Michigan consumers with resources to help protect against unemployment identity theft and steps to take if they are victim.
The agency recently warned residents of attempts by criminals to file imposter claims as part of an international criminal ring reported by the U.S. Secret Service (USSS) to exploit the COVID-19 crisis and commit largescale fraud against state unemployment programs across the country. Imposter claims are filed using previously stolen or fraudulent personal information. No personal data from claimants has been stolen from the UIA.
Using information from federal and state law enforcement, the UIA developed additional fraud protections, including further requirements to verify identities. Some existing claimants may have received “Stop Payment” notices on their accounts and have been sent instructions on how to submit the additional information. The UIA currently has more than 300 agency employees and contractors dedicated to quickly authenticate legitimate accounts, with another 300 staff scheduled to be added to this effort next week, bringing the total customer facing staff to more than 2,000. This total includes UIA employees, staff from other state departments and MI Works!, and contractors. These staff are working around the clock to process claims and pay benefits.
In response to this national fraud activity, the UIA has contracted with nationally recognized firms to develop a thorough fraudulent claims analysis and help rule malicious claims ineligible and approve legitimate claimants whose payments have been stopped. The firms will also provide to the agency additional information security with a focus on innovative criminal fraud techniques.
“It is very disheartening that these criminals are taking advantage of a global pandemic to defraud Michiganders when they need unemployment benefits the most. We’re bringing on additional staff and resources to quickly approve legitimate claims and get this emergency financial assistance to our workers that deserve it,” said UIA Director Steve Gray. “Anyone can be a victim of unemployment identity theft and we urge workers to take measures to safeguard their personal information. Michiganders who think they are a victim, need to contact our agency at Michigan.gov/UIA immediately to protect themselves.”
The UIA continues to work with law enforcement to determine the level of unlawful unemployment activity in Michigan and is partnering with state and federal organizations to protect Michiganders from unemployment identity theft and imposter claims. The UIA is collaborating with its partners to identify, locate and begin to bring these criminals to justice. Partners include the Michigan State Police, Michigan Dept. of Management and Budget, USSS, U.S. Office of Inspector General and U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“I applaud the UIA’s efforts to develop further fraud measures to help protect Michiganders from unemployment identity theft and malicious claims,” said State Rep. Nate Shannon (HD-25). “Taking quick action to add staff and resources enables the agency to safeguard the integrity of the system while meeting the tremendous needs of the people of Michigan.”
How to protect against unemployment identity theft:
If a worker files a claim for unemployment insurance, they will receive a written Monetary Determination letter. If you receive this letter (Form UIA 1575C) and you have not applied for unemployment benefits, or the name on the form is not yours, you may be a victim of identity theft. If this happens, contact the UIA immediately online at Michigan.gov/UIA through the Report Identity Theft link.
Additional tips on how to protect against unemployment identity theft:
- Guard your Social Security number. Give out the number only when absolutely necessary, and don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Review your credit report at least once a year to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
What to do if you are a victim of unemployment identity theft:
- Contact the Unemployment Insurance Agency immediately to report the fraud. Report fraud online at Michigan.gov/UIA through the Report Fraud or Report Identity Theft link.
- Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports. A fraud alert is free, and it will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus listed below. The company that you contact must tell the other two.
· Get your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion at com or call 877-322-8228.
· In instances where it is confirmed that a payment has been made as a result of unemployment identity theft, report the payment to the IRS as a fraudulent payment by completing an IRS affidavit, Form 14039.
· Obtain the form online at gov Click on “Forms and instructions.”
· For more resources for victims of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s web site at gov for the most up-to-date information on combatting identity theft.