State Officials Offer Advice On Identity Theft

Wanda M. Stokes, Director, Talent Investment Agency today warned the public to remain vigilant about criminal identity theft related to unemployment benefits. The Unemployment Insurance Agency, a part of TIA, received a significant number of ID theft-related complaints at the end of last year.  This is attributed to the large data breaches occurring nationally earlier in 2017.

“Thanks to our enhanced efforts the number of unemployment insurance related ID theft complaints has dropped in recent weeks, but the issue is still a significant problem,” Stokes said. “During January, we saw 1,600 to 2,000 calls coming into the Fraud Hotline each week.  This decreased to under 500 during March.”

Over the last several years criminals have stolen data from a number of major companies impacting millions of people. That data often included names, addresses and social security numbers-all key requirements for filing a claim for unemployment benefits.

UI has taken a number of steps to stop the criminals from receiving benefits.  They include:

  • Implementation of new legislation to help strengthen Michigan’s identity theft protections
  • Individuals and employers can report identity theft online
  • Questionable applications will be required to submit additional information to support their claim 
  • Restructured Investigations Division to better detect fraud
  • Revamped fraud hotline to respond more quickly to complaints
  • Greater coordination of investigation efforts with State and Federal agencies 

“One statewide association reported they had nearly 3500 fraudulent claims filed against their members but only 13 claims were initially paid before these too were stopped, “Stokes added. “We have been successful in stopping the criminals from receiving benefits and that is why they are moving on to other states and agencies.”

“ID theft is a felony that we take very seriously,” Michigan State Police Detective First Lt. James Grady said. “Individuals, businesses and the State of Michigan have all been victimized by these criminals.”

“Unfortunately, the large-scale data breaches will be causing problems for all us for a long time,” Grady added. “That is why we urge everyone to take steps to protect themselves from these criminals.”

Steps individuals can take to protect themselves include:

  • Guard your Social Security number. Give out the number only when absolutely necessary, and don’t carry your Social Security card with you.
  • When an individual files a claim for unemployment, they will receive Form UIA 1575C, Monetary Determination by mail.  If you receive 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 Unemployment Insurance Agency immediately online at michigan.gov/uiathrough the Report Fraud or Report Identity Theft link or call the UI Fraud hotline at 1-855-UI-CRIME. Reporting an incorrect Form UIA 1575C may be the best way to stop a fraudulent claim from being paid. 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.

Steps businesses can take to protect employees and the business include:

  • Protect your employees’ personal information.
  • Do not use Social Security Numbers or driver’s license numbers to identify employees on internal documents, correspondence, etc. Use an alternate employee ID number.
  • Limit access to personal information to those employees who need it to perform their job duties.
  • Don’t mail, e-mail or fax correspondences to an outside source that include personal identifying information. Don’t leave any personal information in plain view in the work place.
  • Don’t share your web account credentials where personal information is utilized.