OLYMPIA – Since the beginning of May, the Employment Security Department (ESD) has been experiencing a dramatic rise in incidents of “imposter fraud,” where an individual using stolen personal information fraudulently applies for unemployment benefits. ESD Commissioner, Suzi LeVine, released this statement on Monday as an update to the information she shared last week:

“This is happening because bad actors have acquired people’s personal information through other data breaches outside of the agency. 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.

“While this is an immediate and pressing concern for our department, it is not just happening here in Washington. Imposter fraud is a sweeping issue affecting unemployment systems in states across the country. We are working with law enforcement, other states, financial institutions and the U.S. Department of Labor to detect and prevent fraud.

“Because our top priority is to ensure Washingtonians are paid as quickly as possible while we simultaneously protect against fraudulent activity, we have taken a number of steps in our own system to address this increase in fraudulent activity. Steps include:

  • Holding payments for 1-2 days to validate all claims as authentic.
  • Hiring more fraud investigators and staff to answer questions on the fraud hotline.
  • Making changes to our system that will require some customers to verify or provide certain information. These changes impact both new and existing customers, and in some cases could delay payment while we collect or verify this additional information.

“We apologize for any confusion or delay this is causing and are working quickly to address any issues for legitimate claims.

“We are digging into the scope and scale of the problem and remain committed to transparency and security.

“We will share additional information and actions customers can take soon. You can read more about imposter fraud and report it at esd.wa.gov/fraud.”