Growing number of locals are the victims of fake claims.
There has been a recent spike in unemployment benefits fraud reported across the nation, and residents in Whitman County are not immune from this scam.
Scammers are stealing residents’ personal information to file fake unemployment claims with the state. Pullman Police Department Cmdr. Jake Opgenorth said police have documented 55 victims of unemployment benefits fraud this spring in the city.
Sgt. Chris Chapman of the Whitman County Sheriff’s Office said his agency has also seen a “massive increase” in reports of false unemployment claims being filed throughout the county.
These scams have affected the public and private sector, including people who are still employed. Opgenorth said police are collecting all the information from victims’ reports and forwarding it to the FBI.
Diane Hodge, finance director for the Pullman School District, said several school district employees and their spouses have been the victim of unemployment fraud. Washington State University’s Human Resources Services has created a webpage warning its employees of fraudulent claims and advising them on what to do if they are targeted.
Many people who are out of work because of the COVID-19 pandemic are seeking unemployment benefits and Chapman said it is his understanding that scammers are taking advantage of this situation.
“Somehow the scammers have picked up on this and have lots of names of Washington state residents where they’re filing claims in their names,” he said.