2008-08-21 / News

Beware of websites that charge for filing unemployment claims

The state of Michigan is warning unemployed workers in the state to avoid using independent web sites to apply for unemployment benefits.

"There is only one official web site that unemployed workers should use when applying for unemployment benefits in Michigan," Keith Cooley, director of the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth stated, "and that site belongs to the state's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) at www.michigan.gov/uia, and there is no fee for using the site."

He added that UIA's toll-free claims telephone line (866) 500- 0017 is also the only official phone number workers should call to apply for unemployment benefits in Michigan.

Cooley issued the warning after learning of a woman in Southwest Michigan who reportedly had filed an unemployment benefit claim through a private web site and was charged $19.95 plus an ongoing bi-weekly fee.

"There is absolutely no reason why anyone should pay a fee to apply for unemployment benefits," he declared "Anyone who visits a web site that charges a fee for processing their application for unemployment benefits should immediately stop and exit that site before they give their credit card number or Social Security number."

"This sort of website preys on those who can least afford it," Cooley said. "These independent sites may look official, but they are not authorized by the state of Michigan. In fact, using them could jeopardize or delay a worker's benefits and expose them to possible identity theft."

UIA's web site is available to accept unemployment claims between 7 a.m. Monday through 7 p.m. Saturday. In addition, unemployed workers have the option of filing their unemployment benefit claims by phoning UIA's toll-free claims line - (866) 500-0017. Phone applications can be filed weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., although there is a call-in schedule for Monday through Wednesday. The schedule is based on the last two digits of the caller's Social Security number.

"I encourage anyone applying for state unemployment benefits to visit the www.michigan.gov/uia site to file their unemployment claim," Cooley said. "It's fast, easy and available at just about any hour of the day from Monday through Saturday."

He noted that the agency's telephone claims line has been extremely busy in recent days due to a heavy influx of calls from unemployed workers seeking information about their possible eligibility for the new federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. July is also one of the busier periods for the agency due to seasonal shutdowns in the auto industry.

Cooley asked that those calling the agency about the EUC program to please be patient as UIA staff is putting EUC claims into its system as quickly as possible.

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