Taxpayers in Washington State were swindled out of hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to scammers who filed false unemployment applications.
As the state struggles to reopen its economy with “social distancing” measures in place, another 369,000 people filed for unemployment in Washington State last week, bringing the state’s total to more than 1.6 million. The week before that, 138,733 claims were filed, up nearly 27 percent from the week before.
Now, government officials are saying much of that surge was due to fraud.
According to Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD), tens of thousands of fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed under the names of people who’ve been victims of identity theft. The claim benefits were then doled out to the tune of hundreds of millions, with state officials declining to give a specific number as to just how much was stolen. LeVine did say, however, that it was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraud in April.
The government also warned that the massive scheme, which LeVine said is believed to have come from a fraud ring in Nigeria, could mean that Washington residents with genuine unemployment claims could end up waiting even longer to get help.
But despite having been swindled out of hundreds of millions already, LeVine said taxpayers should be reassured by the state’s new “countermeasures,” saying that “hundreds of millions of additional dollars” were kept from going out.
“We do have definitive proof that the countermeasures we have put in place are working,” LeVine said. “We have successfully prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from going out to these criminals and prevented thousands of fraudulent claims from being filed.”
You know, if that makes you feel any better.