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Coronavirus

Washington State Gets Back Millions in Stolen Jobless Aid

OLYMPIA, Washington — Washington state officials say they think they have recovered about half of the hundreds of millions in unemployment benefits paid to criminals who used stolen identities to file claims during the coronavirus pandemic.

Employment Security Department Commissioner Suzi LeVine said Thursday that state officials are still working to determine the final amount paid out fraudulently, but believe it was between $550 million and $650 million. She says the state has recovered $333 million to date..

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits in Washington dropped to just over 31,000 last week. LeVine said the drop is in part due to the ongoing anti-fraud efforts, but also to Washington's four-stage reopening plan bringing people back to work.

According to California cybersecurity firm Agari, a West African fraud ring using identities stolen in prior data breaches such as the massive 2017 Equifax breach is believed to be behind the unemployment fraud in nearly a dozen states.

LeVine said the claims of more than 51,000 people in Washington that had been held up because of the fake claims were resolved by Wednesday night.

She says an additional 50,000 delayed claims will take more time to resolve.

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