AG Nessel warns Michiganders about rise in scams

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel

LANSING — Smishing. Spoofing. Phishing. Spamming. A rise in scams has prompted Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to issue two consumer alerts recently.

The first alert warns about a scam where someone impersonating the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) targets claimants via text with a fraudulent announcement that UIA is making changes to security features. A similar scam has been targeting people through email.

A news release announcing that alert reminds Michiganders that the UIA is currently only communicating through the claimant's Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) or via mail.

This specific smishing attempt, which is when scammers send text messages pretending to be from trusted sources, asks the recipient to click on a link and log into their account, or risk losing their benefits. The goal is to obtain the claimant's personal information that can then be used to steal their identity, the release stated.

"At a time when so many people are struggling financially, bad actors are using scam texts and websites that mimic government unemployment insurance benefit websites," Nessel said in the news release. "These sites trick people into thinking they're applying for or certifying their UIA benefits; instead, they wind up giving scammers their personal information. I urge Michiganders to be vigilant to protect your personal information."

Similar scams have been popping up in other states, leading the Department of Justice to release a warning last month about fake unemployment benefit websites.

Here are important reminders from the Michigan UIA:

• UIA will not send a text message or email inviting you to apply for UIA benefits;

• If you have applied for UIA benefits and get a text or email about your application, contact your UIA directly using contact information included in your account;

• Never click links sent in a text or email claiming to be from UIA; and

• If you believe someone has stolen your identity to claim unemployment benefits, report your concern to UIA.

The second consumer alert involves fake advertisements for too-good-to-be-true treatments related to COVID-19. A news release points to a wide range of scams that are circulating right now, in particular involving fraudulent treatments and test kits, as well as offers to participate in clinical trials.

In her latest Consumer Protection video, Nessel shared what to do to avoid being scammed by people claiming to have a treatment for COVID-19 or the vaccine.

"We're at a point in this pandemic where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but bad actors are trying to take advantage of that collective hope by making false promises," Nessel said. "Please continue to do your research and use trusted sources before making any decision that may affect your health."

Earlier this month, the attorney general told people to avoid vaccine survey scams offering a reward in exchange for personal information.

Other tips stated in the news release include:

• Being suspicious of any product that claims to treat COVID;

• Never purchasing so-called treatment over the internet;

• If you get a text, email, or phone call from someone you don't know about a vaccine or treatment, don't respond or send your personal information; and

• If you're looking for the COVID-19 vaccine, visit your doctor, a trusted pharmacy, or your local health department for your shots.

For more information, visit the Attorney General's Consumer Protection webpage at