COLORADO SPRINGS — We continue to follow up on the unemployment fraud impacting people across southern Colorado. The widespread fake claims are impacting people who didn't apply for the benefits and those who are waiting on the crucial benefit dollars to make ends meet during these difficult times.
The newest development in this story comes as the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment confirms to News5 that since the pandemic began its office has received more suspected fraudulent unemployment claims than real legitimate ones.
CDLE tells News5 since the start of the pandemic 1.1 Million suspected fake unemployment claims have been submitted to its office and it believes more than $6.5 Million has been paid out to fraudsters.
The 1.1 Million suspected fake claims outnumber the 1.04 million in legitimate claims, however CDLE says through it's fraud protection flags it estimates it has prevented paying out roughly $7 Billion to those behind the suspected fake claims.
CDLE sent News5 the following statement:
"Once the fraud hold is placed on a claim, benefits will stop going out. If a program integrity hold is placed on legitimate claims, claimants can verify their identity through ID.me. From January 24 (when we launched ID.me) through February 8, we sent out 69,707 emails to potentially fraudulent claims asking them to verify their identities. Only 14,362 claimants have completed the process to confirm they are who they say they are."
Fraud experts say with so many fake claims and impostor websites many people aren't sure what correspondance coming from the state is legitimate and it's creating a barrier for people trying to get their unemployment funds who can't get questions answered.
"People who need that legitimate money are kind of getting lost in the shuffle," said CSU Global's "Dr. Fraud" J. Michael Skiba. "They are getting legitimate letters and emails, but there are so many pieces of communication that are going out the general public isn't sure what's legitimate and what's not so there's a hesitancy to take the next step."
With the large amounts of fraud and increased demand in the unemployment system, CDLE sent this statement about how it is trying to handle all the calls its receiving:
"We understand the phased-in rollout of the extended benefits of the Continued Assistance Act has prompted many questions. Phase 1 impacted more than 230,000 people which understandably has increased the amount of call volume into our call center. We anticipate high caller volume as we continue to move forward through our phased rollout, and as such will continue to train more call center agents. We will have about 500 total agents staffed this week. We have also updated and expanded our online resources to address the most common issues in order to help as many claimants as possible without them having to call in.
We have a robust FAQ online, in addition to a dedicated page about Program Integrity Holds and a form folks can fill out if their account has been placed on a hold."
If you do get an email that appears to be from the state, there are steps you can take to verify if it's legitimate or not.
"One way that the consumers can try to protect themselves is to just really make sure those sites and correspondence is legitimate," said Skiba. "The .gov is always a sure bet because they are all managed by government municipalities. Any links in that email, even the ones that appear to be .gov you can hover over them, or right click and you can see if the web stem it sends you to is .gov, or some long impostor site."
There is a virtual assistant on the CDLE website that can help you find any forms you need to fill out for your particular situation.
Visit https://cdle.colorado.gov/unemployment for that information.
Here are some links that can help you take action to protect yourself from the impacts of unemployment fraud...
Here is a link provided by the State of Colorado to help anyone who has received this unexpected piece of mail: https://cdle.colorado.gov/fraud-prevention
Some people may also be getting unexpected tax forms tied to the unemployment fraud. Here's where you can report that: https://co.tfaforms.net/f/Report_Invalid_1099
More information on tax form issues: https://cdle.colorado.gov/tax-form-1099-g
For previous coverage of this story: https://www.koaa.com/news/news5-investigates/major-problem-in-colorado-criminals-try-to-claim-unemployment-benefits-in-your-name