Colorados unemployment system adding multifactor authentication to cut back on fraud

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will require multifactor authentication in early August for accounts at MyUI+, the state’s online portal where people can file unemployment insurance claims. It’s part of a larger effort to thwart the hijacking of unemployment accounts.

“This simply means that a claimant will have to set up the use of more than one method of verifying that they are who they say they are every time they log in,” said Phil Spesshardt, director of the state’s Division of Unemployment Insurance.

Plagued with fraudulent claims, Colorado earlier this year implemented, a third-party program that establishes the identity of unemployment insurance applicants, to block applicants using stolen identities. Scammers then switched to using bogus texts, emails and calls to obtain the account credentials of those who had passed the identity screening. They have also posted fake job ads they use to gather information from unemployed individuals.

Once they have access to an account, a scammer will typically go in and change the bank routing information to an account they control. The unemployed worker will make a weekly request, only to have the payment never show up because it went into another bank account.

Spesshardt urged people to access their unemployment accounts only directly through the MyUI+ portal and not through any links they may receive. He also said that they should check that their bank routing information hasn’t been changed each time they sign in to file a claim.

Daniel Chase, the department’s chief of staff, estimates that as of July 1 there were 4,310 claimants still on hold for suspected fraud after passing the screening. There were another 3,790 claims on hold for non-fraud reasons, such as improperly submitting a backdated claim or failing to establish they were available and eligible to work.

Barring a last-minute extension, claimants in Colorado will have until the week ending Sept. 4 to request benefits under two federal programs — the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that was created to assist self-employed workers and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extended benefits when state eligibility ran out.

That will also be the last week for all unemployment recipients to claim the extra $300 a week federal payment under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

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