By: Pam Hines, BIAW Director of Finance & Human Resources
Across the state, we are hearing more and more about fraudulent unemployment claims being filed by individuals posing as employees. Currently, it is unknown how others have gained access to individual personal information. It is hypothesized that this may be the result of recent large scale data breaches that you may have read about in the news in the recent past.
You or your employees may learn of fraudulent unemployment claims either by an employee informing you that they have received communications from the Washington State Employment Security Department for a claim they didn’t file; or by receiving a claim notice from the Employment Security Department for an active employee. The fraudulent claims use personal identifying information, including a home address and social security number to file a claim for benefits with the State Employment Security Department (ESD).
What Should you do if you Discover a Fraudulent Claim?
When you receive an unemployment claim notice from ESD for an employee who is still working, respond and note that the employee is still actively employed. You should also flag the claim as potentially fraudulent and notify the impacted employee as soon as possible. Unfortunately, even though you may respond with this information, ESD will not close the claim based on the company or human resource’s information response alone. The State unemployment office will pay the weekly claims filed until they are informed that the claim is fraudulent and asked to cancel the claim by the individual affected. The employer cannot stop fraudulent payments. You can read more about unemployment fraud on ESD’s webpage.
How can Your Employee Protection Themselves?
If you become aware of a false unemployment claim filed using your name and personal information, you should contact ESD at: ESDFRAUD@ESD.WA.GOV or fax to 360-902-9771, or call them at 1-800-246-9763 and provide the following information directly to ESD:
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- Your name
- Last 4 numbers of your Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- A copy of your driver’s license
- A brief description of your knowledge that a claim was filed using your personal information
- If a claim was filed using your information, you’ll need to confirm that you give ESD permission to deny and cancel it
Additional questions you have about unemployment claims should be directed to ESD. Unfortunately, their representatives will not discuss individual cases with anyone other than the claimant of record. The ESD phone lines are very busy, so you will want to be patient but persistent until you get through. It is also encouraged to file a police report for identify theft in your jurisdiction, which in most counties can be done online.
It is unfortunate that during times such as now, people try to take advantage of the crises for their own personal gain. Take care, be safe and stay vigilant.