The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment is now requiring everyone receiving unemployment benefits to go through the ID.me program to establish their identities, not just new applicants.
“Fraudsters continue to be resilient, persistent and continue to try to hit the system in any way that they can,” said Phil Spesshardt, acting director of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Division said during a news call Thursday.
To protect state and federal unemployment dollars, the CDLE will now require everyone to verify their identities through ID.me, a third-party vendor, he said.
The task will be a large one, given the 278,771 continuing unemployment claims in the state on the week ending March 20. About 68,000 beneficiaries have been notified that they will have to go online and verify their identities before filing a weekly claim on Sunday.
The whole verification process, if it goes right, takes up to 15 minutes and involves providing a photo of a government-issued ID and uploading a selfie, according to the CDLE website.
About 15% of those who attempt to establish their identity online, however, are failing to do so and are having to resort to a video call with a “trusted referee,” Spesshardt said.
But as more and more states turn to ID.me, the secondary verification process is getting severely jammed up. Securing an appointment with a trusted referee can require waiting for hours on end.
Spesshardt said the biggest reason ID.me fails to verify an identity is because of poor photo quality. He encouraged everyone going through the process to make sure any photos they provide are well lit and clear. Some people are also jumping out right after uploading their selfies and failing to complete the remaining steps.
Failing the ID.me process will result in what is known as an “integrity hold” on a claim and block payment until the issue is resolved. That means people who have been receiving a steady flow of deposits each week could find themselves cut off if they don’t get it right, resulting in missed rent and car payments and other consequences.
There’s also another catch involving those who have reported a fraudulent claim in their name in the past and are now receiving unemployment benefits themselves. They should not go through the ID.me process.
“If you pass ID.me on a fraudulent claim, you will release that claim,” Spesshardt said.
With the help of 58 safeguards, the state estimates it has blocked more than $7 billion in payments on fraudulent claims, with only $6.5 million making it into the hands of scammers.
But Spesshardt conceded Thursday that $6.5 million is an underestimate. As more continuing claimants go through the verification process, it is likely the state will learn that undetected scammers have been milking the system for months on end.
“We do unfortunately expect that number will be increasing,” Spesshardt said of the amount paid out in fraudulent claims.
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