With the economy in shambles due to COVID-19, Washington state has delayed the payment of unemployment checks after discovering a rising number of fraudulent claims using stolen personal information.
Suzi LeVine, the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) Commissioner, reported a “significant rise” in “imposter fraud” since the start of May and accelerating in the second week of the month.
“Bad actors have stolen Washingtonians’ personal information from sources outside of the agency and are using it to apply for unemployment benefits,” LeVine explained.
Criminals are using personal information stolen from past data breaches like the massive Equifax hack to apply for unemployment benefits and attempt to route those payments to their own bank accounts, LeVine said.
In response to the wave of fraudulent claims, the ESD has held up payments for an extra one to two days to make sure they’re authentic, LeVine said, noting that her office has also expanded its fraud hotline, hired new fraud investigators and is working with other states and the federal government address the situation.
If you believe you may have been a target of imposter fraud, visit the ESD website and report it immediately.
Here are some additional resources and steps you can take if you believe your identity has been stolen:
- Go to the FTC identity theft website, identitytheft.gov. This resource has the most current, detailed step by step process for reporting and protecting people from further victimization.
- Request your free credit reports via annualcreditreport.com and review them for other fraudulent activities.
- Find additional tips from the Washington State Attorney General at atg.wa.gov/recovering-identity-theft-or-fraud.
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