The unexpected loss of a job can take a huge financial and emotional toll on an individual and her or his family. Unemployment Insurance is a vital, government-sponsored benefits program that may be available to provide qualified workers with a period of weekly compensation while looking for a new position. Eligible individuals must renew their UI benefits claim each week by filing a continuing unemployment claim. 

While applying for benefits online is relatively straightforward, it is crucial that applicants be thorough and honest each time they file a renewed claim. In Wisconsin, failing to provide accurate information when requesting unemployment compensation constitutes insurance fraud and may result in disqualification from the program, steep financial penalties and even criminal prosecution. 

Accurately reporting weekly income 

It is important that applicants keep in mind that absolutely all earned income must appear on their weekly claim renewal. Even if an individual receiving UI compensation is seeking a full-time position, he or she must report any income earned performing part-time or temporary work while continuing the search. In addition to any monetary wages, the applicant should also indicate the value of items like room and board, tips, cash payments or labor done in repayment of a debt. 

Potential penalties for UI fraud 

Wisconsin law considers intentional misreporting of employment status, income or other items to qualify UI benefits a serious offense. UI fraud is a Class A misdemeanor in cases involving benefit amounts of $2,500 or less and a Class I felony when claims exceed $2,500. Penalties may range from up to nine months in jail and $10,000 in fines for the former and up to 3.5 years and $20,000 for the latter. Those who receive overcompensation under false pretenses must also repay those benefits. 

After going through the stressful ordeal of losing a job, facing an unemployment insurance fraud charge can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Considering the steep penalties of a potential conviction, those confronting charges may want to consult with an experienced attorney about how to proceed.