Colorado now requires anyone receiving unemployment to verify their identity to make sure they’re not an imposter.
But as unemployed Coloradans learned of the change via the “Beginning in April” notice at the top of their accounts over the weekend, thousands of them headed to the online tool, IDme, and faced “more than 5 hours” of wait time to get verified.
“Yes, you are reading that correctly, the estimated wait time is more than five hours and it’s already been buffering on this page for the past two hours,” emailed Dahlia Weinstein, a Greenwood Village resident who shared a screenshot of the wait time. “You’ll note, if I prefer not to wait now, I can save everything and come back later. The problem is, I can’t seem to apply for unemployment benefits until my ID verification process is complete.”
She waited for three hours on Wednesday, hit the “come back later” button only to return later and face another “More than 5 hours” wait time.
Phil Spesshardt, acting director of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Division, acknowledged the long wait times on Thursday and said that the company IDme has seen a heavy increase of activity as other state unemployment agencies added the service.
“We try to post when we thought the best times were to contact IDme. However, right now, their wait times tend to be consistently lengthy,” Spesshardt said. “We would say that we’re not necessarily happy with the response that IDme has been able to provide to our customers at this point in time.”
The deluge of ID verifications is due to unrelenting fraud hitting unemployment agencies nationwide. Colorado has paid about $6.5 million to fraudsters but prevented more than $7 billion from being sent, though both figures are expected to increase. Colorado also added even more fraud triggers to its system that automatically puts a hold on suspicious claims. The state now has 58 triggers, up from 50 just a few weeks ago, Spesshardt said.
“Fraudsters continue to be resilient, persistent and continue to try to hit the system in any way that they can. So the best way to protect funds — both federal funds and state funds — (means) we will be moving forward with IDme on individuals with continuing claims,” he said. “We’ve already begun communicating with many of these claimants to give them an opportunity to start this verification process ahead of Sunday’s payment request.”
Spesshardt said CDLE will send out notices to 68,000 people on Thursday that they can go ahead and get their identities verified using IDme. Users can also access the link on CDLE’s site at cdle.colorado.gov/idme. More users will be notified by email in upcoming days.
Those who don’t need to use IDme include people who’ve already been verified by the tool. And if you have no reason to be on unemployment benefits, don’t use IDme. That could release a payment to a fraudster if you’ve reported being a victim.
MORE: How scammers targeted Colorado’s unemployment system — and what the state is doing about it
IDme explains the long waits
Virginia-based IDme uses technology to check a user’s driver’s license or other official ID, their mobile network and other available data, such as a credit report.
The company says it’s currently working with 22 states and the prolonged waits are due to several states, including Colorado, who “are sending months to a full year’s worth of claimants through IDme at once” said Blake Hall, CEO and cofounder of IDme.
That caused the average wait time to reach two to five hours — but only for users who must get verified over a video chat. Hall said 90% of its users get through the process within minutes.
“ID.me is perfectly capable of handling new claims volumes in tens of states; however, when states run hundreds of thousands to millions of claimants through our system all at once to verify accumulated claims, then wait times increase,” Hall said in an email.
After Arizona sent hundreds of thousands of folks to IDme in December and then California sent over 1.1 million in January, the wait times for video chats increased before dropping back within a couple of weeks to a normal range of 30 minutes to 2 hours.
But another issue complicating the process is, of course, fraud. Hall said that new claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance users have a 30% fraud rate while the backlogged claims show fraud rates “north of 50%. This has been causing wait times to increase.”
At the same time, the company is fending off attacks from out of the country.
“At the same time, we are actively defeating Russian attackers attempting to bypass our Face Liveness technology, international crime rings out of Uzbekistan, and social engineering attacks originating from Nigeria. We are also fighting off global botnet attacks attempting to perform account takeover. Fighting these professional attackers contributes to operational complexity,” he said.
MORE: Colorado’s unemployment system kept inadequate records on who was overpaid or not paid at all, auditor says
The verification service is best completed on a smartphone that allows for photos, document uploads and, if necessary, video chat. IDme also asks for sensitive information, including social security numbers. Users who don’t have the proper equipment should call CDLE’s customer service line at 303-536-5615.
Colorado started using IDme in January because all states distributing federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance money to self-employed or gig workers must have some sort of approved ID verification. As of March 31, CDLE had invited 948,283 users to verify their IDs, but only about 10% have done so, with approximately $79.5 million in payment holds released.
CDLE is also trying to figure out why most people do not complete the process. While a number of those accounts on hold are likely actual fraudsters, a large number are legitimate users who have gone through the IDme verification but still are unable to collect unemployment benefits. Other issues may be holding up that user’s account, CDLE has said.
But about 15% of the verification attempts have been unsuccessful, Spesshardt said.
“Most claimants will be able to verify their identities via IDme at any time of the day through the self-guided process on their smartphones or other devices and it only takes about 15 minutes,” he said. “There are other individuals who will not be able to complete that process.”
Those users must go through the trusted-referee process, which is handled by IDme and not CDLE. Spesshardt offered additional tips for a successful IDme verification:
- Make sure uploaded documents are clear.
- Take selfies in a well-lit space.
- There are at least nine steps to complete the process, according to the CDLE instructional video. Make sure you do all of them, even after you have uploaded your ID in step 6.
- IDme offers tech support 24/7 online at help.id.me.
Gerald Forney shared on Monday that he was helping a friend of his get through the IDme process. For a speedy approval, he said one must be computer savvy and have a phone with a fast upload capability, a fast computer and all the originals of your documents (jpegs and not PDFs).
The friend he was helping apparently didn’t have a credit score so they were directed to the IDme’s trusted referee, which had a wait of 4 hours and 53 minutes.
“(Actual) wait time was 6 hours 35 minutes ending at 8:35pm last night,” Forney said in a follow up email on Tuesday. “The wait time was only displayed for the first few minutes, then there was no information as to where we were in the queue. We almost gave up several times, but toughed it out. Interview took a couple minutes, and my friend passed.”
This story was updated at 4:52 p.m. on April 1, 2021 with comments from IDme CEO Blake Hall.