Local police agencies in the state of Washington report a sharp increase in unemployment insurance fraud, reflecting a growing crime trend nationwide.
Investigators say stolen identities are being used by fraudsters to pose as people who have lost their jobs to file claims for benefits. Sometimes the scammers even file false claims on behalf of people who are still working.
“Someone’s claiming to be me, and claiming to be unemployed,” said Keith Kaplan, of Bothell.
Kaplan said the trouble began when a letter from the state unemployment office was delivered to an address he hadn’t lived at for 20 years. The letter said Keith had applied for unemployment checks because he was out of work.
“I have a job,” he said. “And I didn’t file an unemployment claim on April 26, so someone is apparently impersonating me and trying to steal money from people who actually deserve it and need it.”
Bellevue police spokesperson Meeghan Black said their department has received several online reports, which they are forwarding to the US Department of Labor.
“Perhaps you’ve lost your job even temporarily, and you’re applying for these unemployment benefits, only to find out that someone else has gone in and used your information to illegally try to obtain these benefits,” she said.
Similar crimes are surging in spots around the country like Providence, Rhode Island, where 2,000 reports of identity thieves filing false unemployment claims were made in a single week. Investigators dubbed the crime trend “Imposter fraud.”
In Oklahoma, there have been 3,800 fraudulent claims reported in the last six weeks.
“You wonder, is this a million people doing it once, or is it one person doing it a million times?" asked Kaplan, who said he has never filed for unemployment.
Black said local police agencies are looking for common threads linking the crimes together.
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