PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Fraudulent unemployment insurance claims are becoming a growing issue for employment departments across the country, including in Oregon.
Experts estimate states across the U.S. have lost a combined total of $200 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims. California and Washington have lost hundreds of millions. Oregon won’t give a dollar amount for how much fraud has cost taxpayers but said it continues to be a huge issue though not on the same scale as in Washington or California.
In 2020, the Oregon Employment Department identified tens of thousands of unemployment claims as suspicious. KOIN 6 News learned the number of fraudulent claims has increased tenfold from 2019 to 2020 because the payout for scammers is huge. The OED said some fraudulent claims were caught before payments were sent out but others weren’t noticed until many payments later.
“Overall, the scale of the issue is still significant – we are facing constant attacks on the system, including systemic identity theft, and more than just individuals attempting and committing fraud,” an OED spokesperson told KOIN 6.
Hall said scammers can take someone’s stolen identity and turn it into $20,000 through a fraudulent claim.
“The benefit is so high and all they need is one identity from any American,” said Hall. “It’s the largest cyber attack in terms of fraud in American history by orders of magnitude.”
KOIN 6’s own Ken Boddie recently found someone in North Carolina used his name, Social Security Number and birthdate to file a fraudulent unemployment claim. Someone at the employment department recognized his name and flagged it as fraud but Hall said the same thing could happen to anyone.
Most citizens’ personal information is already on the dark web thanks to big data breaches like the Equifax and Anthem breaches, Hall said.
The Oregon Employment Department said anyone who is a victim of fraud should report it right away.