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Hundreds of millions in unemployment benefits paid to fraudsters

Hundreds of millions of dollars were paid in unemployment benefits to fraudsters impersonating Washingtonians. (AP)

The Employment Security Department is reporting that it paid hundreds of millions of dollars in unemployment benefits to fraudsters.

The false unemployment claims were made with tens of thousands of identities stolen from Washingtonians.

And now, the Washington residents who are out of work and filing legitimate unemployment claims will have to wait a bit longer to see those benefits.

“As we got a better sense of the scale and scope of the fraud that was being perpetrated, it was necessary for us to pause payments to be able to put additional measures in place that would help fraudulent claims from being paid out,” said Nick Demerice, director of public affairs for Employment Security.

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The longer wait times are expected to last through the coming weeks.

“Typically, we tell people that it usually takes, if you use direct deposit, between 24 and 48 hours to have your payment deposited,” he said. “We’re telling folks it’s more likely to be that 48- to 72-hour window for now.”

Demerice said it should not impact retroactive benefits for those Washingtonians who recently became eligible for unemployment benefits and are waiting on back pay.

The state hopes to get the money back during the criminal investigations.

“We will work through a number of means with law enforcement and other entities to reclaim as much of that money as we can,” Demerice said.

If you believe you have been a victim of imposter fraud, visit the ESD’s website and report it immediately.

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