About 100,000 likely fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed in Michigan since Friday, Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency said Wednesday.
Those claims, which were for the federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), were stopped for identity verification and not issued payments, the agency said. Claims were filed using previously stolen or fraudulent personal information, and no personal data from claimants in the unemployment system has been stolen.
“Because of the additional fraud protections we developed last year at the onset of these coordinated attacks on state unemployment agencies, these fraudulent claims have been stopped and no payments have been sent,” Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of the agency, said in a news release.
It’s been nearly a year since the U.S. Secret Service warned consumers of a Nigerian crime ring that was filing fraudulent jobless claims across the country. Fraudulent claims continue to plague the state agency, ultimately slowing benefits to legitimate filers.
At that point, the agency had relaxed certain fraud protection policies in order to speed up the delivery of benefits for the millions of Michigan residents who were out of work at the start of the pandemic.
It’s estimated that “hundreds of millions” of mostly federal dollars were sent to criminals, according to an estimate from Deloitte & Touche LLP and the agency, before those fraud policies were reinstated.
At recent hearings in front of Michigan lawmakers, Olson has detailed some of the tactics fraudsters have used to try to claim benefits, including calling legislative offices posing as a real person to get a lawmaker’s help in obtaining benefits and even submitting a fake ID with a photo of John Krasinski, known for his role as Jim Halpert in “The Office.”
The agency also released guidelines on what to do if someone receives a letter from the UIA asking to verify the claimant’s identity or a “Monetary Determination” letter and they did not file for benefits.
The agency said the person may be the victim of identity theft, and should visit Michigan.gov/UIA and click on “Report Fraud or Identity Theft” to alert the agency.
Once the identity theft has been reported and the investigation is concluded, the victim will be sent a null and void determination letter, the agency said.