News

Massive unemployment claims fraud caused ESD to halt claim processing

By Rose Gundersen, VP of Operations and Retail Services

Due to massive fraudulent unemployment claims, the Employment Security Department announced halting the processing of claims on May 14 for two days. The amount siphoned off due to fraudulent claims amounted to nearly $1.6 million in March and April. This number may likely rise as benefits have been paid out to fraudulent claims.

ESD Commissioner Suzi Levine apologized for the temporary halting as it meant delays to legitimate claim processing, but the halting is necessary to validate legitimate claims. Sadly, some who are legitimately unemployed have found that the state had paid out thousands into imposters’ accounts by the time they filed their first unemployment claim.

Whether you are the employer or employees, please report any suspicious unemployment claims immediately to ESDFRAUD@esd.wa.gov or online.

On May 15, the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, Brian Moran, announced his effort to work with Washington state to track down and prosecute criminals stealing unemployment benefits. Though massive scams are happening in many states, a report by federal investigators indicated that Washington State has been the prime target of a likely Nigerian scam. Moran urged the state to address “vulnerabilities in its system” which is a likely reason for our state’s being the prime scam target. Washington officials pushed back on Moran’s comment according to the Seattle Times.

Knowing the prevalence of consumer data loss in the last few years, it is surprising that government agencies that issue benefits have not instituted additional verification steps besides using typical identification data.

The Seattle Times reported the following number of suspicious claims from many large employees: 86 for Seattle Public Schools, 200 for Boeing, 10 for the City of Bellevue and 150 for Bellingham Public Schools. Another Times article reported banks in Oklahoma seeing a flood of unemployment benefit transfers in the $9,000 to $20,000 range.

Review your personal or business mail from the Employment Security Department carefully and take precautions so you don’t become targeted in this massive scam.

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