VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT MAY HAVE LONG WAIT FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
QUESTION: I was laid off in July, after the company I worked for went out of business. I tried to apply for unemployment benefits, but was unable to do so: The online program said a claim with my Social Security number already exists. I have tried calling the Unemployment Insurance Agency, but I am never able to get through. What should I do?
ANSWER: Report the incident to the police, and then contact the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) online and scroll down to the box labeled “Fraud and Identity Theft.” You should also fill out UIA Form 6349 and send it by mail to the UIA at Unemployment Insurance Agency, PO Box 169, Grand Rapids, MI 49501, or by fax at 517-636-0427. You can try calling the UIA Customer Service Hotline at 1-866-500-0017 but, as you’ve already discovered, there is usually no response.
After that, you will have to wait. And wait.
The Detroit Free Press recently detailed the stories of several area residents who are in your situation. Some are still waiting to receive benefits, months after trying to file a claim, despite making daily calls to the UIA and even staying on the line, trying to get through, for hours.
The problem is due to the enormous quantity of claims that have been filed since the Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to shut down in March. Unemployment increased 396 percent from April 2019 to April 2020. Weekly claims skyrocketed from an average of around 5,000 per week in the months preceding COVID-19’s arrival in Michigan to almost 1,200,000 claims from mid-March to mid-April (388,554 claims were filed in the week ending April 4 alone), according to government figures.
Although the UIA has reportedly tripled its workforce since April, and the state’s unemployment rate declined from over 22 percent in April to 8.7 percent in August, the staff on hand is still clearly insufficient to keep up with the massive backlog of questionable claims.
The only good news for victims of identity theft who are hoping to receive benefits is that when the problem is eventually remedied, they should receive a check for all the benefits they should have been receiving since first attempting to file a claim.
Claimants often do not discover their identity has been stolen until, like you, they attempt to file a claim and discover one already exists; or they receive an IRS statement of benefits collected; or are notified by their employer that a claim for unemployment benefits has been filed; they receive a request for information from the UIA.
To guard against identity theft, you should review your credit report at least once a year to make sure there are no accounts that you have not opened. You can get a free credit report from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax – at annualcreditreport.com.
It should be noted that identity theft is a felony, punishable by 5 years in prison for a first offense and 15 years in prison for a third offense.
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By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq
.Attorney and Counselor at Law
GWINN LEGAL PLLC
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Troy, MI 48084
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