BOISE — Crime rings across the globe are exploiting the COVID-19 crisis by attempting to commit large-scale fraud against multiple state unemployment insurance programs, and Idaho is not exempt.
These crime rings possess large databases of stolen personally identifiable information which is used to submit a large volume of applications for unemployment benefits. Scammers use the names and addresses of Idaho residents, but then have payments sent to bank accounts in other states or have bank cards mailed to different addresses.
Before the Department contracted with ID.me in December for online identity verification, more than half of initial claims filed were fraudulent. While identity verification is an additional step when filing an initial claim, once this is fully integrated into the process, it should eliminate this type of fraudulent claim. We have a responsibility to taxpayers to ensure that benefits are only going to people that are entitled to them.
Claimants who are sent an email and letter from Labor requiring identity verification must go through the online ID.me application, which can be accessed with a laptop, desktop computer or cell phone.
The claimant uploads specific documents to prove their identity or answer questions related to their credit. This process – which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week – serves both English- and Spanish-speaking customers.
If the documents are insufficient, the claimant attends a video interview with a trusted referee at ID.me. The trusted referee will confirm that the claimant is who they say they are.
ID.me is used by several agencies like the Veterans Administration, Social Security Administration and at least 22 other Department of Labor agencies across the country. Because of the unprecedented number of fraudulent claims from around the country, there are delays in the identity verification process. ID.me is hiring more staff to move through the requests at a quicker pace.
Once the claimant’s identity is verified, Labor will clear the issue preventing the claimant’s payment. This process can take up to 14 days. There also may be other issues preventing payment that need to be reviewed by staff, which could take additional time.
It’s important to note that the department’s unemployment insurance system has not been hacked. The data has likely come from other breaches throughout the years across the United States.
Many Idahoans whose identities have been stolen in security breaches in the past are receiving notifications from the Department that they have filed for benefits. If this fits your situation, go to this webpage on the Labor website and fill out the online reporting form so Labor staff can deny the claim.
The Idaho Department of Labor takes this problem seriously and we are working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Office of the inspector General, the FBI and other law enforcement entities to combat fraud and identity theft.
You,too can help combat fraud by following the steps to verify your identity or to report a fraudulent claim at https://bit.ly/2PIRYzG.