ID.me stopping NC unemployment fraud, but frustrations, delays continue for legitimate applicants

Frustrations continue to mount for the unemployed who are having trouble getting their identities verified.

"I need my money. It's been a struggle, why? Because bills need to be paid," said Herman Wilkins. Cassandra Jenkins faces the same obstacles: "I just want to be able to pay my bills."

Wilkins and Jenkins are both unemployed and they along with several ABC11 viewers continue to turn to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson saying they're having troubles verifying the identity with ID.me, the company the state hired to try to stop unemployment fraud and make sure those filing for benefits are legitimate. For several months, the Troubleshooter has been trying to help the unemployed who can't get through to ID.me to get verified. Wilkins said he has been trying since February,

"I kept telling ID.me what was going on?" Wilkins said. "Every week, I would call the number for customer support, they said two weeks and here it is four months."

Jenkins has been trying for a month to get her identity verified.

"I did everything they asked of me," she said. "I downloaded my ID, my social security number, my phone number; it would not confirm anything."

Jenkins and Wilkins, along with several others viewers, got in touch with Wilson to contact ID.me on their behalf. Wilson got in touch with ID.me. Pete Eskew, Senior Vice President of Public Sector at ID.me, said they have worked hard to get users verified. In March, we heard from several viewers who faced five-hour wait times to talk with ID.me, but that wait time has since improved to two hours or less.

"The wait times have gone down since we spoke last, and we are investing lots of manpower as well as dollars to help all claimants out," Eskew said.

The goal of ID.me is to stop fraud claims, which is working, according to the State Division of Employment Security.

Of the more than 85,000 claimants that ID.me verified, more than 25,000 users have been identified as suspected frauds. Eskew said fraud is only becoming more of a problem.

"It's almost accelerating as organized crime, both foreign and domestic, is getting in the game," Eskew said. "We are getting smarter, investing resources and helping out as many as North Carolinians as possible."

After Wilson shared with ID.me the troubles that Wilkins, Jenkins and others were having getting verified, ID.me worked with many of them and got them verified. They're still working on some cases but said they are committed to getting the unemployed verified.

The state said 80% of claimants are able to successfully verify online without assistance from ID.me. In some cases, the user's identity is verified and sometimes there is a delay on DES's end.

"There may be other issues holding up a claim," DES said. "Successful identity verification does not mean a person is automatically eligible to receive unemployment benefits. DES must determine eligibility under state and federal guidelines. If there are issues with a claim, it may take longer to determine eligibility and make payments."

When it comes to ID.me this summer, it is planning to start offering in-person verification to help those who are having trouble doing it online.
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