OLYMPIA - Due to a rise in unemployment fraud attempts, payments are going to be held for an additional 1-2 days this week.
Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner Suzi LeVine announced the news in a statement released on Thursday, May 14.
In the statement, LeVine said that since the start of May, and particularly in the past week, the ESD has seen a significant increase in reports of imposter fraud.
"This is where bad actors have stolen Washingtonians’ personal information from sources outside of the agency and are using it to apply for unemployment benefits," LeVine said.
LeVine stressed that the ESD has not had a breach and the data was not being obtained from the agency. Rather, victims' personal information is being stolen from another source and then used by criminals to apply for benefits and try to route those payments back to their own accounts.
In response to the increase in imposter fraud, the ESD is implementing the following additional steps:
- Dramatically increasing the number of agents on the fraud hotline; 100 more of whom just started Wednesday
- Hiring more fraud investigators
- Cross matching data with other state agencies and across the country to detect fraud activity
- Working with the U.S. Department of Labor to detect and prevent fraud
In addition to these steps, LeVine said that this weeks' payments would be held for an additional 1-2 days so claims can be validated as authentic.
"We apologize for the hardship this may cause for valid claimants," LeVine's statement said.
People who believe they've been the victim of imposter fraud are encouraged to go to esd.wa.gov/fraud and report it as soon as possible.
LeVine also offered the following steps and resources to use for people who believe their identity has been stolen:
- Go to the FTC identity theft website identitytheft.gov. It has the most current, detailed step-by-step process for reporting and protecting people from further victimization.
- Request free credit reports via annualcreditreport.com and review them for other fraudulent activities.
- Find additional tips from the Washington State Attorney General HERE.
In conclusion, LeVine also offered what she said are the most important things for people to know about unemployment imposter fraud:
- If someone is a victim of fraud, they will not have to repay the money.
- If someone is a victim of fraud and then needs to apply for benefits, they will still be able to do so.
- The ESD will only be reaching out to people from the esda.wa.gov domain and only asking people to provide information on its website esd.wa.gov. Other scammers may offer to help people and businesses by sending them to phony web pages asking from their empoyees' information.
"This is such a difficult and unprecedented time and unfortunately criminals use situations like these to try and gain advantage," LeVine said in her statement. "While our agency is working around the clock to quickly get benefits out to Washingtonians who need them, we also are maintaining vigilance and taking action to combat fraudulent activities so we may pay out legitimate claims and block those who seek to do harm."