DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has reported an increase in fraudulent unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic as the department attempts to assist people who are struggling.
An investigative department for the KUSA-TV has found the state has filed more fraudulent claims filed by scammers than legitimate claims filed by residents, the station reported.
The state agency said 1.1 million fraudulent claims and 1,043,760 legit claims have been filed since the pandemic began in March.
“We have to walk a tightrope from the demand and mission to get out these benefits quickly as possible to people who are experiencing financial hardship,” department Executive Director Joseph Barela said.
The state said it paid out more than $6.5 million to scammers over the last year.
“When you look at $7 billion paid out to actual claimants, just under a million in 10 months, it’s not a high percentage,” Barela said. “It’s not a lot of money. We’re still concerned about it, so we are doing everything we can to prevent it from going out the door.”
Some residents have said they received unexpected employment benefit debit cards in the mail while others have said their name was used to file for assistance.
“My heart just kind of dropped,” said Darrell Vigil, who was notified someone stole his identify and filed a claim. “I still really have no idea if someone got money in my name or used my home address or another address.”
Others said they are unable to get assistance because their accounts are locked because of identity thieves.
“The amount I’m getting is small, but regardless, I need it to sustain my livelihood,” Lori Hoffner of Jefferson County told KUSA-TV. “I just want to be able to talk to somebody who can help me, who can explain the situation.”
Barela acknowledged that the agency’s phone lines are busy, but said people can use a new system called ID.me to verify their identity and remove any fraud flags on their accounts.
“We know our call centers are bombarded,” Barela said. “They don’t need to call into the call center to have that done. I would encourage your viewers to go online to coloradoui.gov and use that technology to handle the fraud hold.”
Officials have urged people to check their credit report and subscribe to a credit monitoring program if they believe their identity was stolen.
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