Man learns of unemployment benefits collected via his stolen identity

Posted at 6:24 PM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 18:24:13-05

WEST MICHIGAN -- A man from Hudsonville learned he was recently approved for unemployment benefits. It sounds normal enough, but he said he hasn't applied for benefits in nearly a decade. It appears someone's collected hundreds of dollars using his identity.

His name is Mike, and he reached out to the FOX 17 Problem Solvers for help since he wasn't able to resolve this with the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency himself.

Mike didn't want his last name used in the article under the circumstances. He showed the FOX 17 Problem Solvers the notice he recently received from a former employer.

He said he learned through two previous employers an unemployment claim was filed in his name. As of early November, nearly a thousand dollars had been paid out.

"When I was initially talking to one of my former employers, they said, 'Hey by the way I received this.' I said, 'Received what?' I said, 'I never filed a claim,'" Mike recalled.

Mike got the notice from Grand Valley Towing and it shows his full name, social security number, and the amount charged in benefits against the employer's account.
It left him confused. He said he hasn't filed for unemployment in nearly a decade.

"Who's receiving these benefits? Where's it going? How did they get my information? Is this an internal problem? Is it a computer just generating this or is there somebody doing it? And how is the state verifying it if they have my, all my other information but my addresses don't match up where the card is being sent to. Isn't there anybody double checking that information?" he questioned.

So Mike turned to a friend, private investigator Mike Cook, to try and get some answers. Mike never contacted police because he figured he could work it out with the agency and the help of his friend.

Cook said, "It appears at this time that it's going to a debit card that's issued by the state. That's our main concern because once it's out there and it's spent, now we have to locate who it is that spent it, and we don't want Mike to be responsible."

"He hasn't made these claims so he shouldn't be [responsible], but we're trying to head it off before it becomes an issue of that nature," Cook continued.

Both men say they've tried reaching someone with the agency on multiple occasions.

"It's been a little bit of a runaround trying to get to the individual that we need to speak to because we don't know. Is it identity theft? Is it an internal error? But the benefits haven't been paid to Mike and he hasn't made those claims," Cook said.

The FOX 17 Problem Solvers reached out to the Talent Investment Agency and the Unemployment Agency. Someone in the fraud division gave Mike a call in the afternoon. Mike said he found out the money is being sent to a prepaid debit card in Miami, Florida, however, the address on file for his claim is in Jerome, Michigan which is near Jackson. The unemployment agency told Mike the bogus account is being canceled.