Colorado’s new effort to prevent unemployment fraud left two-thirds of suspect accounts failing to verify ID

Tamara Chuang
Colorado Sun

Colorado’s latest attempt to combat unemployment fraud had some noteworthy results in its first week.

The state, which has battled fraudulent jobless claims since the pandemic began, tested the identity verification system on 500 people whose benefits are on hold due to suspicious activity. But only 138 followed through to prove they are who they claim they are.

That doesn’t mean the rest were fraudsters — some may not have checked their inbox or spam folder. The state plans to reach out again. But the state was pleased by the results so far and will send out invitations to 2,000 more people on Friday, and then expand the program quickly to give those with fraud holds a chance to get verified and receive benefits.

“Claimants who refuse to (use) identity verification, or do not complete the entire process will continue to have their payments on hold,” Joe Barela, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor, said during a press call Friday. “We really need people to go in and go through the process of using the new technology to verify their identity.”

The app was required by the new federal COVID relief bill after identity thieves made countless claims for federal aid last year. Last week, Department of Labor officials said that 950,000 accounts were flagged after anti-fraud measures were put in place. The measures stopped $7 billion from being paid to suspicious accounts.

However, there are also legitimate people among the nearly 1 million holds. Many are anxious since it’s been weeks or months since their last payment, and they’ve been unable to get through to a human at the unemployment call center. The call center, by the way, has answered 68,000 calls in the first 20 days of the month, Barela said.

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