State validates 41% of unemployment accounts frozen for suspected fraud
The state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency said Friday it has validated 140,000 of the 340,000 active unemployment accounts, about 41%, that had been frozen in recent weeks out of concerns that they may be fraudulent.
Benefits should resume for those accounts within days as the state works to weed out fraudulent activity in hundreds of thousands of other accounts, the agency said in a statement.
More than 600 staff members are working on identity verification for those and other accounts. Another 200 staff members, fraud assessment experts and a national forensic accounting firm will help to investigate the remaining suspect claims, the agency said.
“It’s extremely upsetting that the actions of these fraudsters have delayed payments meant for our working families,” the agency’s director Steve Gray said in a statement. “While we continue to work with our state and federal partners to stop this unlawful activity, our focus remains on doing everything we can to quickly validate authentic claims and get our workers the emergency financial assistance they need.”
The Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force created to address the growing number of fraudulent claims continues to investigate hundreds of cases as well as issuing hundreds of subpoenas to financial institutions to help identify fraudulent activity.
Since March 15, residents have reported more than 50,000 instances of people using their names to commit unemployment fraud. More than 40,000 of those cases were reported after May 1.
“…Our investigators remain committed to working with the task force to identify fictitious claims in order to ensure that benefits can be paid to Michiganders who have filed legitimate claims and are relying on this assistance during this difficult time,” Col. Joe Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police, said in a statement.
The state revealed last week that it had frozen payments for roughly 340,000 active unemployment claims because of suspected fraudulent activity and had asked the account owners to verify their identity in order to clear the account.
The flagged accounts at that time made up 15% of the 2.2 million claims filed in Michigan and 20% of the 1.7 million claims considered active at that time.
The attack on Michigan's unemployment system is part of a nationwide onslaught on unemployment systems that federal officials said could result in at least $26 billion in unemployment benefits stolen fraudulently.