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5,000+ legitimate Colorado unemployment claimants stuck in "maddening" fraud holds this summer

5,000+ legitimate Colorado unemployment claimants stuck in "maddening" fraud holds this summer
5,000+ legitimate Colorado unemployment claimants stuck in "maddening" fraud holds this summer 03:49

More than 5,000 Coloradans had their unemployment claims wrongfully withheld this summer — that's 5,000 people who weren't getting the money they desperately needed — due to a change in Colorado's unemployment fraud prevention system. 

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CBS

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says it recently did away with its old partner, ID.me, for identity verification to combat fraud, and contracted a new company called Advanced network management, or ANM. After that switch took place, the department says it saw an influx of 22,000 fraudulent claims since April, so it implemented more restrictions to prevent those claims from being put out, but in the process, 5,766 legitimate claims were held up.

The department will pay ANM nearly $200,000 for its identity verification services, called TrueID, associated with LexisNexis, over the next six months to help combat fraudsters trying to take advantage of the system by filing fake claims.

CBS News Colorado spoke with many of those claimants, who reached out to our newsroom concerned about their claims being held up for weeks, even months. 

When all those people weren't getting paid, many tell us they had trouble getting helpful answers from CDLE's customer service. The claimants said if they would get through to a real person, they were often unable to give correct instructions on what to do to clear up their holds. 

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CBS

One claimant described it to CBS News Colorado as "maddening."

Other claimants reported long hold times on the phone, waiting for over an hour to speak to a real person, only to be told to just keep waiting. 

The department says it has four help phone lines. It provided the following data for its average call wait times on each customer service phone number since April 1:

303-318-9000:

  • The average daily hold was 23 minutes and 38 seconds.  
  • The longest hold per day on average was 56 minutes and 25 seconds.  
  • Total calls picked up: 32,438.  
  • Average calls picked up per day: 457

303-318-9035: (This is our Benefit Payment Control line, which is dedicated to assisting people with overpayment questions. People who call this number with fraud hold questions cannot be supported by this line. As a result, people needing to make payments, request a payment plan, or request a waiver for their legitimate overpayments are having to wait longer than usual.)

  • The average daily hold was 13 minutes and 10 seconds.  
  • The longest hold per day on average was 50 minutes and 45 seconds.  
  • Total calls picked up: 4,390.  
  • Average calls picked up per day: 73

1-800-388-5515:

  • The average daily hold was 23 minutes and 24 seconds.  
  • The longest hold per day on average was 52 minutes and 18 seconds.  
  • Total calls picked up: 12,933.  
  • Average calls picked up per day: 182

303-536-5615:

  • The average daily hold was 17 minutes and 3 seconds
  • The longest hold per day on average was 1 hour and 21 minutes.
  • Total calls picked up: 58,906 calls
  • Average calls picked up per day: 807

CDLE says it ended its relationship with ID.me, because the contract term was ending, and it put out a new bid to ensure fair and reasonable pricing. 

But as CBS News reported last year, there have also been national concerns with ID.me's technology, and how its facial recognition software allegedly was not as accurate with darker skin. 

"The fact is that ID.me has demonstrably increased overall access rates -- and especially access rates for communities of people of color -- relative to the data brokers we compete against," said Blake Hall, CEO of ID.me. "Additionally, facial recognition in ID.me's system is ALWAYS backstopped by humans. We have a real-time team of human agents who review negative decisions and can override the AI and we have another team of video chat agents who physically compare the user to the photo on their ID to match them without facial recognition. This last team has always been in place."

Hall also issued the following statement to CBS News Colorado about the end of its partnership: 

"ID.me understands the importance of strong verification practices and standards in this technological age, and we continue to work with state partners and organizations across the country, including Colorado, who are interested in understanding the most effective ways to combat fraud, as well as the best approach to raising their standards.  

"As state agencies constantly evaluate options and approaches to verification, ID.me is committed to ensuring we're viewed as a resource for any state partners looking to apply the most rigid standards, particularly given our NIST IAL2 & AAL2 standard certifications - the highest standard set by the Department of Commerce. We're focused on all future partner opportunities and efforts to protect taxpayer resources with the safest, most secure verification services." 

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CBS

CBS News Colorado reported extensively about issues with ID.me and Colorado's Unemployment Insurance Program throughout the pandemic. Click here to see those stories

CDLE says it has released most of the legitimate claim holds, and it's working to release more as its employees manually check each claim. 

"The department has been working over the last 6 weeks to identify those legitimate claims and move them for release," wrote Philip Spesshardt, Director of the Division of Unemployment Insurance, in an email to CBS News Colorado. "This has taken time due to the high volume of fraud and the high level of information these fraudsters have on the victims they are targeting."

In the meantime, if you're still having trouble with your claim, you can follow the steps on how to verify your identity with TrueID by clicking here. If you have called all help lines and still have not received helpful answers, please write to our tip email by clicking here, and we'll do our best to get you some answers. 

If you believe you have been a victim of unemployment fraud, the department offers the following advice:

"If someone receives an email that they did not request that is asking to reset their My UI+ password, ignore that email and FOLLOW THESE INSTRUCTIONS:

Current unemployment claimants should ignore the email (if they did not request a password change) and log in to MyUI+ from the official UI website. Verify that their information (contact, banking, payments, etc) is correct. And then each time they log in to MyUI+, they should review this information to make sure that it is still correct. If someone is able to log in and all the information is correct, no further action is necessary. 

"If they log in, and the information has been altered, please update the information and then reset your password. If they see that a payment has gone to an account that is not theirs, they should fill out a fraud form on our website. Please note that when a fraud report is filled out, the claimant may be temporarily locked out of their account while we investigate the issue.

"If the claimant is NOT able to log in to their account, please fill out a fraud report. Click the "Report Identity Theft/Fraud" button and select "I'm an Individual Reporting Unemployment Fraud." In the drop-down menu under "What Type of Identity Theft Are You Reporting," select the option "I received a suspicious text or email message about my unemployment claim" and then follow the prompts from there.

"CDLE will NEVER send text messages with a link to log into an account. These messages are from hackers who use those links to obtain a claimant's login information. Clicking the link and/or communicating with the hacker, allows the bad actor to hijack the account, change payment methods, and steal money."

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