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

Dave Ross

Ross: Oh no, the capital gains tax could downgrade my yacht purchase

It’s humiliating! I’d have to settle for the Majesty 100 yacht. Now instead of 180 feet, I have to shoehorn my guests into 100 feet?
1 day ago
Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: Helping others through loss with empathy, care, and memory

Death, loss, and grief are hard things, so when we see others dealing with them sometimes our instinct is to turn away.
4 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: NCAA should bring back consolation games in March Madness

J. Paul Blake wrote to Dave Ross saying that the NCAA needs to bring the consolation game back for March Madness.
5 days ago
Dodge Challenger...
Dave Ross

Ross: Dodge Challenger Demon with optional parachute still street legal

Even if police pursuits were routine again, there’d be no catching you behind the wheel of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170.
6 days ago
Frank Sumrall

Speculating potential Trump charges as country awaits indictment

"I think the charges they are going to make against Trump here is something like falsifying business records," Farenthold said.
7 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: There’s a limit to compassion that we should have in the courts

It’s important to try new things – like a compassionate court – but it’s just as important to recognize it's doing more harm than good.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

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.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Why Washington state was a target for unemployment fraud