Police agencies across Michigan say they are seeing a major increase in unemployment fraud complaints.
It's an issue the WZZM 13 Watchdog team told you about two months ago, when a few of our employees had unemployment claims filed in their names. Since then, it's gotten worse. In Walker, there have been over 100 reports taken since November.
Victoria Russman, Operations Supervisor at WZZM 13 was just hit this week. "It's a weird feeling. I'm feeling a bit violated. So, I’m thinking, now what do I have to do? I need to get on top of this."
She now must file a fraud complaint with the UIA and either freeze or put a fraud alert on her credit.
It can be a frustrating process.
"I guess waiting on hold on the phone, I called the credit agencies and it was all automated, I never got to talk to a person," Russman said.
You might find it easier to do everything online. The UIA has a page on its website to report fraud.
The agency says it has seen an increase in fake claims, which it anticipated after the recent data breaches.
"You're as careful as can be, so that's the frustrating thing," Russman said.
West Michigan communities, like Walker have been hit hard. Police have taken just over 100 reports since November. Wyoming had 19, and Kent County has seen about one to siz per week. Grand Rapids has taken 107 fraud complaints, but couldn't’t tell us how many were related to unemployment.
Michigan UIA spokesperson Chris DeWitt says, “We are increasing our efforts to stop the criminals from getting any unemployment insurance benefits and then have them brought to justice for their crime.”
"There's just so many ways I guess people can get info. It's out there and it’s scary", saidRussman.
Investigators say the criminals are from out of state and using the UIA because the agency typically tries to get people benefits as soon as possible. However, increased security measures have been put in place, and the agency is catching most of the fraud, before money is doled out.
Some of the West Michigan police agencies we talked to said that this week has been a bit slower for complaints, so they are hoping the worst, is over.
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