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Foreign scammers target Washington unemployment department

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A sophisticated network based in Nigeria is taking millions of dollars for desperate people who are unemployed here at home.

BELLEVUE, Washington. Secret services say Washington is the main target of an international unemployment fraud scheme, report published in the New York Times.

A sophisticated network based in Nigeria is taking millions of dollars for desperate people who are unemployed here at home. The report comes as federal officials expressed concern about the vulnerability of the state’s computer systems to attack.

More than a million people in Washington have filed for unemployment since the nationwide lockout against coronaviruses in March.

Liz VandenBerghe is not one of them. She retired from the Bellevue School District last year, but recently received a letter from the Washington Job Security Department stating that her unemployment benefits were being prepared.

“We thought it was a joke,” she said.

Her husband also received a letter telling her the same thing.

“It breaks my heart that people who are as intelligent and know how to do this are not using their skills for something good,” she said. “Instead, they are sitting at home trying to figure out how to fuck everyone.”

Federal authorities now believe it is part of an elaborate plan, based in Nigeria, specifically targeting Washington. Although other states are experiencing similar problems.

In the race to put money in people’s pockets faster, Washington Job Security Department waived the standard week-long verification period for new claims. In doing so, he unintentionally paid $ 1.6 million in fraudulent claims in April alone and is currently experiencing a “spurt” of illegal activity.

Last week, the ministry temporarily closed its doors to better control the crisis.

RELATED: Unemployed Fraud, Raising Identity Theft in Washington

US Attorney for Western Washington Brian Moran said job security should “fix vulnerabilities in their system”.

The exact nature of these vulnerabilities and their remediation is unclear. Moran refused to expand on his statement.

KING 5 News contacted ESD for clarification. We were told that no one was available for an interview.

The department posted a statement on his website saying that they will now withhold payments for one to two days to ensure that the claims are real. The ministry is also planning to hire more fraud investigators and will ask people to verify certain information.

Washington State was one of the first states to start paying coronavirus-related unemployment benefits, which may have made us an early target. It is believed that scammers are probably using stolen social security numbers during previous data breaches by companies like Equifax.

In the meantime, for VandenBerghe, it’s one more thing that his family has to worry about.

“We just don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said. “Are they going to be able to open accounts on our behalf? It’s very scary and annoying and it drives me crazy.”

RELATED: What to Do If a Criminal Uses Your Identity to File False Unemployment Claims During the Pandemic

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