Other states with easier to use claim-filing processes have been hit hard by identity theft issues.
Wisconsin has not seen a comparable surge in such cases. But, the problem is still happening here to some extent, and a Fox6 report indicates that it can be near impossible to fix once it happens.
Fischer filed for unemployment insurance online, as the state encourages. As a result, her banking information was in her unemployment portal. She says investigators told her the “unknown imposter or imposters” changed her banking information several times so the money would go to them.
When Fischer first reached out to FOX6, her case had been caught up in adjudication for weeks and she had been unable to access a single unemployment payment.
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After speaking to FOX6, Fischer says the state released some of her unemployment money to the correct account. However, investigators tell her it could take two years to repair the identity fraud damage. She is still in debt, and is now receiving notices that someone set up an unauthorized bank account in her name.
This kind of difficulty in getting benefits paid out after an identity theft are common.
However the identity theft happens, the Department still generally presumes you are responsible for your claim-filing until you prove otherwise. For instance, a client came to me after the Department charged him with fraud for receiving unemployment benefits under fraudulent circumstances. So, I ended up sitting across from program integrity staffers who grilled my client like he was a criminal under interrogation for claims he could not have physically received.
Department records indicated that someone other than my client changed the address to which his unemployment checks were being sent to a place where my client never lived (he was living in another city at the time). I pointed out that issue to the interrogator. This program integrity investigator, however, thought my client was in cahoots with the person who apparently stole his login credentials and wanted him to confess to a conspiracy with the unknown person who filed fake unemployment claims in my client’s name.
Note: The details of what happened — checks sent to an address where my client did not live — were known to the Department at the start. Those records indicated when address changes were made to his unemployment account (by someone pretending to be him and calling the Department up). Not until a specific request for those records did my client actually learn how the “theft” of unemployment benefits had occurred, as the Department refused to tell him why it initially was accusing him of unemployment fraud. All he knew is that he never filed the claims and never received the money from those claims.
As indicated in the Fox6 report, the Department has instituted some systems to make automated attacks more difficult. But, those preventative tactics do little to stop identity theft issues (where the login credentials are already in the possession of someone else). The Department’s main mechanism to discourage filing unemployment claims by identity theft has been to make the claim-filing system difficult to begin with. As noted in the Fox6 report, instituting some form of two-factor authentication should be a priority. But, that kind of security is, so far, not available in Wisconsin.
So for now, all Wisconsin residents need to be cautious with unemployment, even if NOT filing any claims at the moment. The Department maintains an updated list of fraud alerts. All claimants should be checking this list on a weekly basis.
Another useful tip: Always use a distinct, separate password for every on-line account you have.
Even if not filing a claim for unemployment benefits, connect to your unemployment portal or call the regular claim hot line at 414-435-7069 or 844-910-3661 or the PUA hot line at 608-318-7100 to inquire about any benefits paid in your name. For help printing out your benefit payment history from the on-line portal, see the relevant section of this post.
Finally, if you suspect someone has stolen your identity for filing an unemployment claim in your name, as soon as possible call the fraud hot line at 800-909-9472 to report that suspected identity theft.