More than two dozen identity theft cases involving fraudulent unemployment claims were filed by Rochester Hills residents in a four-week period from late January to mid-February, according to Oakland County Sheriff's Office reports.
The cases, which involved victims employed at various companies and residing throughout the entire city, appear to be on the upswing in recent months as other identity thefts have tapered off, a sheriff's official said.
"It's obvious someone's system has been hacked along the line, and there are a lot of Social Security numbers out there that are being used," said Oakland County Sheriff's Office substation commander Capt. Michael Johnson.
In nearly every case filed with the sheriff's office, the victim's reported they learned from their employer that someone had filed for unemployment benefits by using their Social Security number. The victims' were unaware that the claims had been filed.
Johnson said those committing the crimes often inflate the earnings of the victims in an attempt to increase the fraudulent payments. He said there isn't much victims can do to protect themselves from such crimes once their personal information has been compromised.
"It happens serendipitously behind their backs," he said. "The good news is that employers are understanding what is going on, and they are questioning the claims right away."
Johnson said the crime is a version of identity theft. In the past, similar instances were occurring with fraudulent tax filings made without the victims' knowledge.
"This has sort of taken over from the income tax fraud," he said, "but now that we're in tax season, we will see that rise again."