My personal experience with identity theft:
Identity theft is a national problem and it's not just credit cards and financial institutions being targeted by thieves.
Government agencies, like Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, are also seeing an uptick in fraudulent claims.
As a Consumer Reporter, I now know how scary it can be when you find out a thief has your private information. I was notified by my company, WZZM-TV, that someone used my name to file a claim with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.
I thought I would share my personal experience of what worked and what did not when I attempted to clear it up.
I immediately pulled my credit report. Fortunately, there was nothing out of the ordinary, so I put a freeze on my credit with all three agencies; Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian.
Equifax was easy. Because of the recent date breach, the website is already set up to apply a fraud alert or credit freeze for free. The others were frustrating. One agency had an hour and a half wait to talk to a customer service representative.
I was hoping to speak to someone because if you’ve been a victim, you can get the service for free. I finally gave up talking to a real person and did everything online.
I paid the fee of $10 for each service. However, it you are passionate about getting it for free, you must mail a request to the credit bureau. You also must include a police report, to get the credit freeze for free.
The same day, I filed an online fraud claim with the Michigan UIA. That part was easy. But when I tried calling, it was impossible to get through to someone. I left a message, but did not hear back. At least, not right away.
The following week, I called the State of Michigan’s Communications Department. I wanted to know why I wasn't getting a response. I knew I wasn’t the only one having that problem. I had received e-mails from viewers with the same complaint.
I heard back almost immediately. The UIA confirms it's seen an increase in fraud complaints. An agency spokesperson says, "The agency is working to address these challenges more quickly. Improving customer service is a top priority."
In my case, good news: the UIA's system had already flagged the claim as suspicious and no money was dispersed.
As for that person who stole my identity? I may never know. The thieves could be from out of state and my social security number was just one of several they attempted to use that day.
On Thursday, a package of bills passed the Michigan House that will make it easier for employers and claimants to report cases of identity theft.
The bills would also require more ID from claimants applying for benefits.