Report: WA state the primary target for unemployment fraudsters

Report: WA State the primary target for unemployment fraudsters

WASHINGTON — A new Secret Service memo obtained by the New York Times suggested Washington State is a primary target for an international fraud ring.

The newspaper said Washington is one of at least seven states to see fraudsters taking money from the unemployment system.

As a result, people like Daniella Nichols are not getting the help they need.

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“The last three weeks it shows that they’ve paid me, but I haven’t received any payments,” she told KIRO 7 News.

Nichols said she’s most worried about fraud.

"Somebody has probably hacked into my information and is receiving my payments,” she said.

Last month, thieves stole $1.6 million in unemployment benefits in Washington. As a result, the Employment Security Department temporarily held up people’s benefits this week.

The department’s commissioner said recent fraud cases are different because they’re not data breaches, but imposter fraud, which occurs when someone uses a person’s identity to steal their money.

"We’ll be able to hold those payments for an additional one or two days so we can validate claims- as authentic,” said Suzi Levine.

A U.S. attorney said Washington State has to address and fix vulnerabilities in the unemployment system, adding that states are especially at risk now, as they work to rush payments to people who have lost their jobs.

In Washington, the weeklong waiting period before unemployment payments are paid has been reduced.

In the mean time, people like Nichols are still waiting for help.

“I’ve had to sell some things out of my home, just to try to get by with,” she said.