Why Washington state was a target for unemployment fraud

May 22, 2020, 2:31 PM

Unemployment fraud, wa unemployment...

A stack of unemployment forms. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

The big story in Washington state has been the delayed unemployment checks, which are being funded by the federal government, but have been slow to arrive because the state has been targeted by fraudsters.

Why is it that Washington State in particular seems to have been targeted?

“We were one of the first states to implement the provisions in the federal CARES Act that allows people who had previously been ineligible, such as those who are independent contractors and those who are self-employed workers, to be able to access the benefits, as well as access for all unemployment benefit recipients the additional $600 per week per person that continues to be available,” Washington Employment Securities Commissioner Suzi LeVine told Seattle’s Morning News.

Federal money for Washington hits bank accounts

“That amount of money and the fact that Washington state was among one of the first to deploy it, I suspect is what makes us a very interesting target for criminals,” she added.

So there was no particular data breach that exclusively affected Washington state, and this was instead the fraudsters shopping around for the most generous state to defraud?

“I suspect so … most have had some sort of impact, whether it’s Massachusetts, whether it is Michigan, whether it is Rhode Island,” she said. “We have not had a data breach at the Employment Security Department. What the criminals are doing is using stolen information that they had previously taken from other breaches, like the Equifax breach or the other multitude of breaches that have happened over the past few years.”

McKenna: ‘The law is the law’ when it comes to lawsuits against lockdowns

“And they basically are so sophisticated, they compile an understanding of individuals with their data, and then they are using that stolen data to then claim for benefits on our site,” LeVine explained.

But as Dave Ross noted, the money has to go somewhere. So when the agency sends out the money and, for example, it’s sent out of state, wouldn’t the computers detect that?

“I am not going to give a road map for what we are seeing at this point. I don’t want to help other criminals come in and try and execute what has been happening,” she said. “We’re working hard on cranking up our various parameters around catching the fraud before it happens.”

“This is a constant balance between reducing friction for individuals to receive benefits, versus increasing friction to keep criminals from perpetrating fraud.”

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross

patty murray debt ceiling...

Dave Ross

Ross: Patty Murray vows to restore social services as debt ceiling bill passes

This is a guest commentary from Senator Patty Murray. She was presiding over the Senate as they passed the debt ceiling bill last night.

2 days ago

irs funding debt limit bill...

Dave Ross

Ross: IRS funding lost in debt limit bill, tax cheats rejoice

The debt limit bill passed in a classic bi-partisan compromise, and I was actually impressed by last night’s debate.

3 days ago

Irs debt ceiling...

Dave Ross

Ross: IRS has new no-pursuit policy with debt ceiling deal

This debt ceiling deal means the IRS will have to adopt a no-pursuit policy. It means the highway is clear, and all the lights are green.

4 days ago

book ban...

Dave Ross

Ross: Can anybody really ban a book?

For all the talk about a book ban, Dave Ross explains why he's never had any trouble getting any book he wants.

5 days ago

Republicans debt...

Dave Ross

Ross: Republicans are really using the debt crisis to spend more

Ross: You are not going to reduce the debt. Especially if you have people like Senator Graham who are using this crisis to spend more money.

6 days ago

baby branding...

Dave Ross

Ross: Maybe more Americans should consider baby branding

According to Bloomberg, some anxious American and European parents have been hiring branding consultants to name their baby.

9 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Why Washington state was a target for unemployment fraud