Unemployed Michigan residents ought to be wary of a scam in which fraudsters are using stolen personal information to apply for unemployment benefits, according to Michigan-based news site MLive.com.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has since instituted more steps to verify peoples’ identities and make sure an application was sent by the person in question and not a scammer, according to a press release from the state.
The fraudulent claims use stolen identities in order to craft entire applications for unemployment benefits. Since the government added $600 to unemployment benefits to help those affected by the coronavirus, the idea has become more lucrative.
UIA Director Steve Gray, in the press release, said it was unfortunate that criminals were “taking advantage of this global pandemic.”
“Michiganders who suspect an imposter claim has been filed in their name should contact the UIA immediately,” he said, according to the release. “We are working with law enforcement to identify and prevent scammers from accessing the system and will work to ensure all unemployment benefits are sent to the Michigan workers that deserve them.”
But the additional protections against fraud have had inadvertent effects on law-abiding citizens trying to access their unemployment benefits. The press release says some users have received “Stop Payment” notices on their accounts and have needed to take additional steps to access the money, if it was suspected there was fraudulent activity occurring.
Michigan has reported 1.65 million unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, with more than 90 percent accepted. Those whose claims are accepted receive a written letter with the amount of money they’ve been granted. Those who receive a letter but did not apply should notify the UIA, as identity theft could have taken place.
Fraud has been widespread during the coronavirus pandemic, with scammers taking advantage of the mass confusion and rapid shift to a new way of life. The scams have come in multiple forms, including fake email links to harmful malware and emails that appear to be from official sources that intend to glean personal information or login credentials illegally.