Bellevue Deputy Mayor became victim of unemployment ‘imposter fraud’
The Washington Employment Security Department has seen a dramatic increase in fraud attempts in May, where fraudsters have stolen personal information and used it to apply for unemployment benefits.
“This is happening because bad actors have acquired people’s personal information through other data breaches outside of the agency,” said ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine. “Criminals then use this information to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits in someone else’s name. There has been no data breach from ESD’s system.”
One of the many victims of “imposter fraud” is Bellevue’s Deputy Mayor Jared Nieuwenhuis.
“I received a letter from the Employment Security Department stating that I would also be eligible for another self-employment assistant program, an entrepreneurship program,” Nieuwenhuis told KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show. “But it also noted on here that I should not stop looking for work. And I need to continue to report that I am looking for work while I’m receiving benefits. Well, I’m not receiving any benefits whatsoever, so obviously I knew right away that my identity had been stolen and these fraudsters have been collecting these benefits for quite some time.”
The claim was effective in March, and there had been no verification process.
“My understanding of the process is that they’re supposed to check with my employer to see if I’m no longer employed. That never happened. Nor did I ever get a letter stating that I had been approved for benefits,” he added.
Unfortunately, earlier verification could have saved the state from sending benefits to this fraudster for up to five or six weeks.
Due to the record numbers of unemployment claims being filed in Washington state and across the country, there is a chance these fraudulent payments extend back longer than we know and are only being caught now.
“I think we’re only discovering it now because of the sheer number of people that are filing for unemployment claims,” Nieuwenhuis agreed.
If you are a victim of fraud, you should immediately report it to the ESD and notify your employer. Learn more about imposter fraud and report a case on the ESD’s website here. The agency also provides details on other reporting steps customers can take to help prevent and stop fraud attempts.
Nieuwenhuis said he does not know how or where the fraudster got his information.
“I have no idea. I’m someone who is very protective of my my private information, especially my Social Security Number,” he said. “… Maybe I’ll find out more information later. But I’ve never had a breach like this or had anybody steal my identity prior to this.”
The deputy mayor suggested being proactive and checking online now rather than waiting until you get a letter to find out you’ve been a victim of fraud.
Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3 – 6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here.