COLORADO SPRINGS — Leaders of the state unemployment system are still working to get benefits out to those who need it the most as they combat a wave of fraud attacks impacting many people who have never experienced identity theft before.
News5 is still hearing from our viewers on almost a daily basis that they are struggling to secure unemployment benefits, or they're still getting fake unemployment claim mail.
News5 followed up with state leaders who are only responding to written statements right now to find out what they are doing to stop the fraud and clear up the system.
In one of our written questions we asked state labor officials how the state is going to recoup billions of dollars in unemployment losses?
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment replied in part: "If prosecuted, fraudsters may face jail time which can also include repayment of stolen benefits plus penalties and restitution. CDLE also works with financial institutions to recover stolen funds and return them to the state.
Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser says this widespread fraud has been a wake up call for many people in our state.
"It is easy for scammers to get your personal information because there are so many of these data breaches where your social security number, your driver's license number, your address, your employer, gets shared with these scam artists and they then use this information against you," said Weiser. "What we've seen in this unemployment insurance fraud is identity theft on steroids. It is the clearest example, the strongest example, many people who never took identity theft seriously, now are getting the memo to protect yourself. Most Americans never check their credit reports. They never look at their credit history."
As people work to better protect themselves, News5 asked state labor leaders if they were hiring any additional investigators to track down fraudsters?
The CDLE responded: "We have tripled the size of our criminal investigative team since the start of the pandemic, with another set of hiring happening now. We're also contracting with an external vendor for additional investigators."
The CDLE went on to say investigators have been able to help the state recover more than $24 million dollars in unemployment fraud losses.
Financial experts at WalletHub have been tracking Colorado's unemployment system that's been overwhelmed with demand and fraud attacks, but with vaccines being distributed financial experts say hope is on the horizon.
"I do think that we're going to see anything like hospitalizations deaths, positive test cases, those numbers are going to start to steadily decrease and the economy numbers are going to start to increase," said WalletHub Analyst Jill Gonzalez. "That's what we need to see here obviously to stop new people from needing unemployment, for people who have needed it to start receiving it, and for people who have not been able to get through, to finally get through. And then I think we will really start to see unemployment numbers start to reverse."
According to WalletHub the State of Colorado has had one of the slowest unemployment recoveries of any state in the country mainly because of the impact the pandemic has had on tourism.
If you believe you've been the target of unemployment fraud there are some steps you should take right now to make sure the state knows about it.
We'll continue to follow this story and if you're struggling with the unemployment system you can reach out to us at News5 anytime to see if we might be able to help.