DENVER (CBS4) – Rachel Hall had been on unemployment since January, until she got a request to verify her identity through ID.me in March. She tried multiple times to follow the directions provided, but was unsuccessful.

“I kept getting weird error code, on error code, on error code,” Hall explained.

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She tried searching what the error code meant, but couldn’t find any answers. She tried emailing ID.me’s helpdesk, but never got a response.

She also tried calling the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for help.

(credit: CBS)

“They would say, ‘You know, I’m so sorry, you’re not the first person that’s dealing with this, unfortunately we’re not trained on ID.me, and we don’t have access to the inside of the system, so you’ll have to work with ID.me directly to get help,'” Hall said.

“It’s just been circles.”

As a result of the unsuccessful verification attempts, Hall hasn’t received unemployment money in a month.

“It’s aggravating,” Hall said. “I’m at the point where, I need to get groceries, I need to pay my car bill … I don’t want it to be repossessed or, or to lose anything.”

She’s not alone.

Terri Kirby also hasn’t been able to verify her identity with ID.me. She’s so frustrated, she wrote a formal complaint to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

“Shutting off benefits, and then telling people they have to figure this out, and when they get stuck, there’s no one that they can reach out to, that is unacceptable,” Kirby said.

Kirby is also pursuing legal options for a possible class-action lawsuit against the state.

“My main intention is to stop unemployment from unjustly cutting off people’s benefits, while working with a company that is not providing the services that they’re supposed to be providing in a timely manner,” Kirby said. “The effect this has on your mental health… they want everybody out searching for work, and moving forward, and yet they’re removing the very foundation that many, many, many people are depending on to be able to do that.”

Last week, the CDLE required all claimants who had not previously verified their identity to do so in order to continue receiving benefits.

So far, the department says about 14% of claimants trying to verify their identity are unsuccessful, and will need to get help from a trusted referee video chat. The department would not say exactly how many people that is.

Kirby said the wait time for her trusted referee video chat was five hours.

“I was like, ‘oh my gosh, do I just have to be available for the next five hours,’ I had things on my calendar,” Kirby said. “So, I went about my day, never heard anything; I kept checking my email and my texts to see if anybody had contacted me, and I called the Unemployment Insurance office on Tuesday, and I think Wednesday I called twice, and was told both times, that there’s nothing they can do.”

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The CDLE said of the 1,134,126 claimants that have been referred to ID.me since January, only 137,027 identities have been verified. The department believes that’s because the majority of claimants are fraudsters.

So far, the CDLE says more than $91 million in unemployment money has been released to legitimate claimants as a result of the ID.me verification system.

ID.me’s CEO Blake Hall wrote in a statement the company 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.”

The CEO also said the company is hiring more staff to handle the volume.

“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,” he wrote. “We are also fighting off global botnet attacks attempting to perform account takeover. Fighting these professional attackers contributes to operational complexity.”

After CBS4 Inquired about Rachel Hall’s case, she got a call from ID.me, and was able to verify her identity. She was told she should be receiving benefits again by next week.

But she worries about potentially thousands of others who are still struggling.

“We shouldn’t have to go to the media,” she said. “The company should have seen this coming, and there should have been a quicker response on their end, although I’m thankful that they were able to escalate my case and get it resolved so quickly, I’m still very concerned about families that aren’t in the same position that I am.”

If you’re having trouble verifying your identity, you can find step-by-step guides here.

You can also try contacting ID.me directly here.

If after trying those methods, you’re still struggling, contact CBS4 investigator Kati Weis.

The following is ID.me’s entire written statement to CBS4:

“Nearly 90% of applicants pass ID.me via automated means in just a few minutes using a computer, phone, and a few pieces of documentation that most people would carry in their wallet. Those who are unable to use the automated process – or those who have come with the wrong documents or copies of documents rather than originals – are directed to the video chat process. It’s important to note that ID.me is the only vendor in the United States that can verify identities via video chat. In states not partnering with ID.me, those who don’t have a credit history or a presence in records do not have an option to verify their identity online.

We are currently working with more than 22 states including Colorado to combat massive unemployment fraud. Wait times for the video chat feature are increasing because several states, including Colorado, Nevada, Florida, and California, are sending months to a full year’s worth of claimants through ID.me at once to combat fraud within existing claims pools. 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.

For new claims, we see fraud rates of over 30% for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims. Because of the high fraud rate for new claims, many states want to make sure no additional taxpayer dollars are lost and are therefore asking ID.me to verify all claimants – both new and existing claimants who have been receiving benefits since March. For backlogged claims, we’re seeing fraud rates north of 50%. This has been causing wait times to increase.

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.

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We know how important these benefits are and are working 24/7 to help claimants. To support the influx in claimants, we are also hiring video chat staff, almost 40 to 50 employees a week, so we can support more claimants in the process of receiving their benefits as quickly as possible. I also want to emphasize that we are the only company in the country that can remotely verify individuals who don’t have a presence in records. Individuals who fall into these categories in states that don’t use ID.me have little to no recourse at all to prove their identity online.”

Kati Weis