Since the beginning of May, the Employment Security Department has been experiencing a dramatic rise in incidents of “imposter fraud,” where an individual using stolen personal information fraudulently applies for unemployment benefits.

“This is happening because bad actors have acquired people’s personal information through other data breaches outside of the agency” ESD Commissioner Suzi LeVine said on the ESD website.

“Criminals then use this information to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits in someone else’s name,” she continued. “There has been no data breach from ESD’s system.”

According to LeVine’s announcement, imposter fraud is affecting state unemployment systems across the country.

Washington officials are working with law enforcement, other states across the country, financial institutions and the U.S. Department of Labor to detect and prevent fraud.

LeVine said because the ESD’s top priority is to ensure Washingtonians are paid as quickly as possible while simultaneously protecting against fraudulent activity, the department has taken a number of steps to address increase in fraudulent activity, including:

Holding unemployment payments for one to two days to validate all claims as authentic.

Hiring more fraud investigators and staff to answer questions on the fraud hotline.

Making changes to the system that will require some customers to verify or provide certain information. These changes impact both new and existing customers, and in some cases could delay payment while additional information is collected or identified.

“We apologize for any confusion or delay this is causing and are working quickly to address any issues for legitimate claims,” LeVine said in her update. “We are digging into the scope and scale of the problem and remain committed to transparency and security.

“We will share additional information and actions customers can take soon.”

Residents can read more about imposter fraud and also report it at esd.wa.gov/fraud.