SEATTLE — Thieves may have stolen up to $650 million in fraudulent unemployment claims in Washington, but the state's Employment Security Department (ESD) has already recovered about $333 million.
In the meantime, it's holding up legitimate claims.
KING 5 viewer Melinda was a victim of unemployment fraud and was concerned after receiving a notice about paying the money back to the state.
“I am a teacher who is working and had a fraudulent claim for unemployment filed," she wrote. "This week, I received notification that I needed to pay the money back, which is ridiculous because I let them know this is fraud and never received any money. I am worried this will impact my credit. Please help me with the next steps."
You don't have to do anything for that overpayment notice. Here’s why: Fraud is beyond frustrating because it's putting a lot of payments on hold for people who need it. Not just in Washington, but across the country.
Nonetheless, here are five tips for fraud victims and for those who need unemployment benefits.
1) Keep filing weekly claims even if you're in adjudication or waiting for the ESD to verify your identity
If you've applied for unemployment keep filing your weekly claims, even if you're in adjudication or waiting for the ESD to verify your identity. Keep filing those weekly claims.
2) Ignore an overpayment notice if you are a victim of unemployment fraud
If you’re a victim of unemployment fraud you can ignore an overpayment notice (this is for cases like Melinda). Fraud victims will never have to repay that money and can still apply for state unemployment benefits.
Businesses will not have their experience rating impacted because of imposter fraud.
3) Be aware of fake websites
Anyone applying for unemployment benefits should be aware of fake websites. You should only use the ESD's official website and your ESD E-services account.
4) Unemployment is free
You should know that applying for unemployment is free and you will never be asked for a payment to process a claim. If you are prompted to make a payment for your claim to be processed, there is a chance that it might be a scam.
5) Be cautious of solicitors asking for information
Be cautious of solicitors asking for your personal information either online or by phone. The ESD will ask you for information through your e-services account or official correspondence. If the ESD calls, you can ask the agent to identify themselves.
The ESD will never use social media to resolve specific issues with unemployment benefits.
The state ESD has promised that every single person will get paid and benefits will not run out, and the agency is making headway. Last Wednesday alone, it resolved 32,000 claims.
It doesn't help if you're not one of the 32,000 resolved claims, but it does free up the lines for others.
MORE: Your Money, Your Future
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