A new computer scam is sweeping across the nation. Michigan residents are being targeted. Successfully. The state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency reports an unknown number of state residents have had their personal information stolen and used to set up fake unemployment benefits accounts. Imposter claims are filed using previously stolen or fraudulent personal information. The expanded benefits available under the newly created federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program are leading to increased activity among criminals particularly those posing as self-employed workers or independent contractors to illegally obtain benefits. The U.S. Secret Service reports scammers have already targeted many states, include Washington, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Florida.

It’s not believed to be as bad here as the state of Washington. Hundreds of millions of dollars went out the door before anyone there knew what was going on. The scammers present a real threat. Using stolen identity information to create a false unemployment account is bad. It can mean that person who may legitimately need unemployment benefits may be cut off until the case is cleared and the scammers cut off. That can take time, that out of work residents don’t have. If the department realizes a scammer is involved, a stop payment indicator is placed on the account. And in cases where you get a letter from the state about unemployment benefits you didn’t file for, you’ve got a clear red flag. Immediate contact with your bank and the state unemployment agency is recommended to get things sorted out.

All this is going on as over 120 thousand Michigan residents who have filed for unemployment benefits, haven’t yet seen a dime.

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