Unemployment fraud is escalating. Learn how to protect yourself

Washington State is seeing an alarming rise in fraudulent unemployment claims as victims’ identities are being used to file false unemployment claims with the Employment Security Department (ESD), including here in King County.

Some individuals who have not filed an unemployment claim have received notification from ESD indicating that a claim as been filed on their behalf. The State is taking this seriously and reviewing its internal processes to identify and prevent these fraudulent claims going forward. This may slow down processing, but is being done in the interest of claimants.

Please see our recommendations for how you can protect your identity and finances, as well as steps to take if you are a victim of this fraud.

To protect yourself from fraud

Employees should consider setting up their own account with ESD to prevent a fraudulent account being created in their name at https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/. 

ESD

If you are a fraud victim

If you have received a letter from ESD, or if you believe that you are a victim of unemployment fraud, there are several steps that you should take to report this issue to protect your financial identity and credit history:

1. Step One – Contact HR

  • Please contact your Human Resources Manager as well as the Department of Human Resources’ unemployment coordinator Elisha Mackey at elisha.mackey@kingcounty.gov.
  • Please include a copy of the letter that was mailed to your home so that we can notify our third-party vendor, Employer’s Edge.

2. Step Two – Contact ESD

ESD’s preferred contact method is online at the ESD Unemployment Benefits Fraud website. ESD will ask that you use their Online Fraud Reporting Form to alert them as they are receiving an extremely high number of calls and no longer have email available.

You will need to include the following information when you contact ESD:

    • Your full name
    • Last four digits of your Social Security number
    • Your address, date of birth, and phone number
    • Information on how you learned a claim was filed on your behalf

3. Step Three – Police report

  • File an online or non-emergency report with the law enforcement agency whose jurisdiction you live in.
  • Seattle residents can file an online report at the City of Seattle Online Reporting website.
  • King County residents can file an online report at the King County Online Reporting website.
  • Start keeping a file folder or journal with the information from this incident, including any case numbers. Some government services and accommodations are available to victims of identity theft that are not available to the general public, such as getting certain public records sealed.

4. Step Four – FTC Identity Theft report

5. Step Five – The three major credit bureaus

  • Obtain your free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.
  • Report to the credit bureaus that the fraudulent claim was made using your identity and provide them with the case number from your police report. You can have a fraud alert put on your identity or freeze your credit. Doing either is free by law.
  • A fraud alert is free and will make it harder for someone to open new accounts in your name. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. That company must tell the other two.
    • Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
    • Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  • Check your credit activity at least once a year. As a victim of identity theft, you have the right to check it monthly if you choose.
  • Credit Freeze – If you do not have upcoming large purchases, such as a home, you may want to freeze your credit for more protection. It is free, and you can do it yourself. Learn more at the FTC Consumer Identity Credit Freeze site.

6. Step Six – Keep your notes

  • Hang on to any notes, copies of emails, etc. This is the paper trail that you can reference if you face any identity issues or locate inaccuracies on your credit history sometime in the future.

If you are a victim of identity fraud, please make sure you follow these steps. They may seem like more work than they are worth; however, they are crucial in helping you recover and combat this crime nationwide.