FOX 11 Investigates fraudulent unemployment claims targeting workers


KAUKAUNA - Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development is cooperating with a federal investigation looking into fraudulent unemployment claims.

State officials confirm to FOX 11 Investigates several states may be involved in the investigation.

"I feel I'm pretty careful," said Donna Dercks of Kaukauna.

Dercks is one of the latest victims of identity theft in the ongoing investigation. Someone used her confidential information to file an unemployment claim with the state.

"I got very nervous because they had everything. If they have your Social Security number they have everything," said Dercks.

Dercks received notification from the Department of Workforce Development that her unemployment claim was approved. The only problem is she remains gainfully employed at Larry's Piggly Wiggly in Kaukauna.

So she immediately called the state to report the discrepancy.

"Oh he knew right away as soon as I said I got this letter. The first thing he said, 'you didn't file did you?'" said Dercks.

Dercks says an unemployment staffer told her they have been getting thousands of calls similar to hers. We spoke with a Department of Workforce Development official who would not confirm the number but does say an investigation is underway.

That investigation we've learned is being led by federal authorities, looking into fraudulent claims in multiple states.

In a statement to FOX 11, a DWD spokesman writes, "We are cooperating fully with federal authorities and authorities in other states investigating fraudulent unemployment insurance claims."

He goes on to say, "there is no evidence that the data source for the improper claims was DWD's UI (unemployment insurance) data systems, which remain secure."

DWD officials declined further comment related to the on-going investigation.

Computer expert Jim Overly of Cyber Works in Green Bay says your confidential information is in the hands of many - your work, your bank, even state records. So you need to be vigilant to protect yourself.

"The biggest thing you can do is protect your social security number. Never put it online, never send it in email," said Overly. "I think a lot of the ownership comes down to each individual protecting themselves against this type of identity theft."

Dercks was told the fraudulent claims, filed online, could be coming from another country.

"What they think they're doing is setting up bank accounts with direct deposit and it can take months for them to catch up. And then you'd get a letter saying you were working and you owe us this money," said Dercks.

As for how many fraudulent claims have been reported, no one is saying. But the bigger concern is how many have not gone undetected.

The best advice is to check your mail for confirmation letters from the Department of Workforce Development. Then report any claims filed in your name.