KAUKAUNA - Wisconsin's Department of Workforce Development is adding new steps for those who apply for weekly unemployment insurance benefits online starting Sept. 10.
The Department of Workforce Development handles tens of thousands of claims for unemployment benefits every month. The changes in filing follow hundreds of potentially fraudulent claims submitted this past summer.
FOX 11 Investigates discovered more than 400 potentially fraudulent claims were discovered in the system from June through early July. Someone was filing claims online using other people's identities. One of those victims was Donna Dercks of Kaukauna.
"I feel I'm pretty careful," said Dercks when interviewed by FOX 11 Investigates back in July.
Dercks turned to FOX 11 Investigates to warn other potential victims. Would-be thieves used her name and information to file an online unemployment claim.
"I got very nervous because they had everything. If they have your social security number they have everything," said Dercks.
Dercks received a letter from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development confirming her claim was approved. Only she was gainfully employed. DWD officials tell FOX 11 Investigates it became aware of the fraudulent cases when individuals like Dercks alerted them to the problem.
DWD is now initiating new steps to help prevent such a breach in the future.
Starting next Wednesday, those required to search for employment when filing claims online will have to fill out information on their job searches. Previously that information had to be made available by mail or fax only when requested. Claimants will be able to use a personal computer or mobile device to enter the required work search information to complete their claims.
Staff processing claims will be able to expedite the review process when work search data is stored and accessible online.
DWD is updating its claimant handbook, and call center operators are being trained to help those filing online claims through the process.
Since the potential fraud was detected, Workforce Development officials told FOX 11 Investigates, "DWD remains vigilant about potential UI (Unemployment Insurance) fraud attemps as we continually look to strengthen the integrity of the UI system."
DWD confirmed 440 potential fraud cases in Wisconsin were brought to light in June and early July, as part of a multi-state investigation being handled by the U.S. Department of Labor. But final numbers on the total potential fraud cases and any money paid out have not been made available. FOX 11 Investigates has made requests to DWD for additional details.