OLYMPIA — A Washington state news station has obtained documents showing fraudulent unemployment claims were filed last year under the stolen identities of 59 employees of the Department of Employment Security ‘State.
Department spotted fraud after paying claim to fraudster’s bank account in 10 of those cases, KING-TV reported.
KING-TV submitted a public records request seven months ago for the documents, which do not show how much money was paid.
The department disabled security and verification processes to speed up payments to tens of thousands of Washington workers who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said. However, the process left the agency vulnerable to fraud.
Chris Monroe, an unemployed professional drummer in Seattle who was trying to get his unemployment benefits, discovered in June that he had a fraudulent claim in his name early last year. The department has not yet cleared his account so he can file his claim.
” What can I say ? It’s extremely frustrating, and yes, it makes me angry,” he said. “I was a legitimate employee and paid into the system.”
The state Department of Employment Security said it could not comment on Monroe’s case due to federal privacy laws.
Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine previously attributed the fraud to the pandemic, a desire to process claims quickly and a small workforce. The department reported that approximately 120,000 fraudulent claims were filed in Washington state with more than $600 million in payouts. More than half of the money has been recovered.
Anne Paxton, director of policy for the Unemployment Bill, said the department relied too much on technology to process claims and not enough on people. She suspects that an automated computer system processed fraudulent payments to the stolen names of employees that living employees allegedly caught.
The Unemployment Bill provides free or low-cost representation to people who have been denied unemployment benefits.
“The computer is your friend until it’s not your friend anymore,” Paxton said. “We hope they will redirect their attention away from the computer system.”