Washington has experienced a surge in unemployment fraud, affecting residents across the state including Mercer Islanders.
A surge in suspected fraudulent unemployment claims, estimated at around $1.6 million, hit as the state works to process legitimate claims for jobless benefits. The surge was so great, that the state paused unemployment payments for 2 days in mid-May while it investigated a wave of fraudulent claims.
If an unemployment claim is falsely made using your information – name and/or social security number - there are a number of recommended steps to take:
1. Contact the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD)
Go to https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/unemployment-benefits-fraud to fill out the online form. You will need to provide personal information to help the state identify you, including: full name, social security number, address, date of birth, and a brief description of how you found out an imposter-fraud claim was filed. This is important: If you receive any payments from the Employment Security Department, report those and return all payments.
2. File a Report with the Mercer Island Police Department
To file a police report, call our non-emergency line at 425-577-5656. You will receive an incident number. Make sure to save the incident number for steps 3 and 4. It’s good practice to keep a file folder or journal with the information from this incident.
3. Contact the Three Major Credit Bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax
Obtain your free annual credit report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228. As a victim of identity theft, you also have the right to check your credit activity monthly. Make sure to report the fraudulent claim with the credit bureaus and provide the bureaus with the incident number from the police report you filed in step 2. Also, set up a fraud alert or have your credit frozen with each of the credit bureaus.
A fraud alert will make it harder for someone to open new accounts using your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name. The fraud alert is free and is set for one year but is renewable. To place a fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus (that bureau must then tell the other two credit bureaus).
Freeze your credit
Also known as a security freeze, this free tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your report, they may not extend the credit.
4. File a Report with the Federal Trade Commission
Based on the information you enter, an Identity Theft report and recovery plan will be created specifically for you. This identity theft report also proves to businesses that someone stole your identity. It also guarantees you certain rights. When you make your report, have your incident number from step 2 ready. Visit the FTC’s identity theft information pages to file a report or for more information at www.identitytheft.gov.
5. Contact the Post Office
Check with the post office to make sure mail has not been redirected to a different address without your permission.
Protecting Your Identity
New reports of identity theft and unemployment fraud are coming in daily. If you haven’t received word that your information has been compromised, there are steps you can take now, to protect your identity.
- Check your credit annually.
- Consider freezing your credit.
- Check your mail regularly. If you receive credit cards you have not applied for or notification of an unemployment benefits application, take action immediately.