This past week, the Employment Security Department (ESD) has seen a dramatic rise in imposter fraud. This is when someone’s personal information has been stolen from some other source and is then used by a criminal to file for benefits and route those payments to their own bank account. Imposter fraud has affected employees from the public and private sector alike.
Given the impact to many of your members, I wanted to let you know so that you can pass on this information to them. Below is what we know, what you should know and what we’re doing about it. But before that, most importantly, are the actions you/your members can take:
If a fraudster uses your identity to apply for benefits:
Check the page over the next few days for updates and new directions as we ramp up our anti-fraud efforts. For example, we will have a new secure form for people to submit their information.
In addition to reporting it to ESD, if this has happened to you, then your information has been previously stolen and you are a victim of identity theft. Two recommendations from the Washington State Patrol are:
Go to the FTC identity theft website, https://www.identitytheft.gov/. This resource has the most current, detailed step by step process for reporting and protecting people from further victimization.
ESD and HRMS have not experienced any data breach; fraudsters have not stolen the information from us. Instead, they are using information that they had previously stolen from other sources and using that to apply for unemployment benefits.
This type of “imposter fraud” isn’t new, nor is this unique to Washington state. We work year ‘round to prevent it. We often find it either during the application process, during our routine practice of contacting employers to inform them of a former employee’s application for unemployment benefits or when routinely reaching out to claimants for more information.
What’s new is the volume of fraud. It’s on the rise all across the country, in large part because of the high volume of claims due to the COVID-19 crisis and the incremental amount of money thanks to the CARES Act.
We’re doing a number of things to combat it, including:
Dramatically increasing the number of agents on the fraud hotline; 100 more of whom just started yesterday.
Hiring more fraud investigators.
Creating a more secure portal where victims can submit information to us.
More information that your members might want to know
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.