Michigan residents urged to check tax forms for fraudulent claims

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan residents who have received tax forms from the state unemployment agency should take a close look at how much they are believed to have received in unemployment benefits. 

The Unemployment Insurance Agency started mailing 1099-G tax forms in January to residents who received unemployment aid in 2020. The tax form includes information on how much they received in taxable unemployment benefits.

But the agency included a sheet containing instructions for individuals who believe the claims were fraudulently made on their behalf, a proactive step to address the thousands of fraudulent claims believed to have occurred last year in Michigan.

Michigan's unemployment website experienced unprecedented jobless aid filings early in the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to some fraudulent claims that were paid out.

People should report fraudulent claims and suspected identify theft immediately, Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a Friday statement. The UIA will investigate any reported claims and issue an amended 1099 where identity theft can be verified.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the employment status of many Michiganders and allowed scammers to find new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals,” Nessel said in a statement. 

Since March 15, the agency said it has received more than 230,000 referrals or complaints about identity theft.

The agency last year struggled to balance a huge uptick in valid pandemic unemployment claims with those filed by fraudulent actors seeking to take advantage of rules that had been loosened to get payments out to more people faster. 

A review of the issue last year estimated "hundreds of millions" of dollars in fraudulent claims had been paid out. Between March and December, the UIA paid roughly $26 billion to 2.2 million claimants in Michigan.

“We’ll continue to work to root out the impostor fraud that is impacting so many Michiganders,” said Liza Estlund Olson, acting director for the agency. “We urge everyone to follow the guidance on our website and from the Attorney General and IRS on protecting yourself and reporting identity theft.” 

People who suspect a fraudulent claim may have been submitted in their name should visit the UIA website for more information on next steps.