Personal info used in fake unemployment filings

Kristen Duthler, fraudulent unemployment claim
Kristen Duthler of Walker looks at documents outlining a fraudulent unemployment claim in her name. (Jan. 17, 2018)

WALKER, Mich. (WOOD) — An untold number of fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed recently, prompting significant concern from those who have been impacted.

State officials say they have received numerous complaints from people who received notice that unemployment insurance claims were made in their names when they never submitted a request.

Police suppose any monies dispersed would be directly deposited into a bank account and likely into the hands of criminals.

Kristen Duthler of Walker received one such notice and immediately contacted state unemployment officials. Filing such a claim requires an individual’s personal information, including their Social Security number.

“Suddenly somebody’s got your numbers and your information and who knows what they’ll do with it,” Duthler told 24 Hour News 8. “It’s a little scary.”

Duthler said dozens of her neighbors received similar notices.

Wallker police say the department handled 30 unemployment fraud complaints in December and 27 already this month.

Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young says her department has been receiving at least half a dozen identity fraud cases each day. Some of them are related to unemployment fraud, though she didn’t have information readily available about how many.

“These types of complaints have some key elements — key personal information that can be dangerous and it could cause you to be a victim in another way even if this way wasn’t successful,” Lajoye-Young said.

Police recommended that victims contact the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency as well as the three credit reporting bureaus. With their information apparently out there, victims could be compromised in other ways.

At the Plainfield Avenue unemployment office, officials have dedicated a row of chairs to those dealing with the fraud.

“If you are here for identity theft issues, please sit here,” a sign reads.

A 24 Hour News 8 crew was on the site for less than 10 minutes Wednesday before encountering a victim.

“I was just kind of trying to figure out why, what the person was trying to gain by filing unemployment under my name,” Reg Davis said as he left the office.

Law enforcement officials for Kent County and Walker say they have not found any commonality among those who have received phony notices.