Those receiving unemployment benefits from the state may have their payments held for a day or two due to large amounts of unemployment fraud in Washington.

Throughout the month of May, the Employment Security Department (ESD) sent out multiple reports regarding “imposter fraud” for unemployment benefits.

The ESD explained that “imposter fraud” is when an individual uses stolen personal information to apply for unemployment benefits.

Suzi LeVine, ESD Commissioner, released statements on May 13, 14 and 18 regarding this fraudulent activity.

“To be clear – Employment Security has not had a breach of our system and no data has been taken from our agency. What we are seeing is that a victims’ personal information has been stolen from some other source, for example, in one of the massive external data breaches like the Equifax breach,” LeVine said. “Many Washingtonians did not know their information had been stolen in the past, and this situation has only illuminated that fact as fraudsters attempt to get unemployment benefits in Washingtonians’ names.”

The ESD has taken steps to fight this fraud that include:

• Holding payments for 1-2 days to validate all claims as authentic.

• Hiring more fraud investigators.

• Increasing the number of agents on the fraud hotline; 100 who just started in mid-May.

• Cross matching data with other state agencies and across the country, such as the U.S. Department of Labor to detect fraudulent activity.

• Making changes to the system that will require some customers to verify or provide certain information. These changes impact both new and existing customers, and in some cases could delay payment while they collect or verify this additional information.

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