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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Navigating the identity verification process for unemployment claims

A Valley Center couple had to pawn their wedding rings to buy food while waiting for EDD claims.

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. — A Valley Center couple nearly lost their home while waiting months for their unemployment claim to come through.

Married for 15 years, Gene and Claudine Moore eventually had to resort to pawning their wedding rings to make ends meet.

“Those are the rings and we've had for years and years with personal inscriptions on the inside,” said Gene Moore.

In December, Gene filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the state agency, EDD; and that’s when the waiting game began.

“Because of the delay in the claim approval, we were actually facing losing our home and finally reached a point when we had to pawn our wedding rings simply to have enough money to buy food,” he said.

Following a flood of fraudulent claims early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, EDD started using a private company called ID.me to perform identity verification on claimants.

“They had me actually hold my camera up and take a picture of myself, take a picture of both sides of my driver’s license, and I think even my passport to verify my identity,” said Gene.

It wasn’t enough.

The unemployed biochemist and microbiologist said he was asked to verify his identity two additional times. He waited weeks, but his claim never came through.

“I was instructed by ID.me to start a new claim with the verification number that he provided.  That triggered a fraudulent claim because now I have two claims going,” said Gene.

He also tried calling EDD, repeatedly.

“I would hear something different every time I called,” Gene recalled.

After four months of getting nowhere, Gene finally called the office of his state senator, Brian Jones, where he spoke with Lori Brown, the director of constituent services.

“Lori [Brown] is an expert on solving these problems,” said Senator Jones.  “In this case, she was able to get a positive response in a short period of time and help these folks get their rings back and get on with their unemployment benefits.”

News 8 reached out to ID.me and the company emailed the following statement:

We apologize for the Valley Center resident and any other claimants who are having difficulty verifying their identity. Our team is working 24/7 to make sure all legitimate claimants get access to their benefits and we understand how important these benefits are to individuals and families across the U.S. 

Below are some tips to navigate the top reasons why people are not able to verify their identity through ID.me’s automated process. While 9 in 10 verify their identity through this automated process in less than five minutes, our mission is to make identity more accessible and secure, and that’s why we have the video chat solution for those who normally can’t verify their identity online.

  • When taking a picture of your documents, please make sure they are the original documents and you capture the entire document. The photo should include all four corners of the document. You can find documents accepted by ID.me here: https://help.id.me/hc/en-us/articles/360017833054-What-is-a-Primary-or-Secondary-Identification-Document-.
  • When ID.me asks you to take your selfie, please make sure you are in a well-lit space and, for best results, make sure your face takes up most of the frame.
  • When verifying your identity during the automated process, ID.me verifies with your telecom provider to ensure that you are associated with the device’s phone number. Please use a number that is not voice-over-IP, which we cannot use for security reasons, and make sure to open the verification link on the device it was sent to. If you received a link via text message, it must be opened on the phone it was sent to.
  • Another way to verify your identity is through our Trusted Referee process, or a video chat option. Since identity proofing is a one-time event, people can use the personal device of a friend or family member or computers with cameras and Internet access available to the public, like computers at a library.
  • Before creating an account with ID.me, check to make sure that you don't already have an account with us. Major federal agencies, 26 states, and over 400 hundred leading brands accept ID.me’s login to streamline customer authentication, so you may have already created an account when logging into a different system. And for ultimate convenience, once a user is verified, they'll never have to verify again. Your ID.me login is portable, so you can share your identity and data as you choose.

EDD also provides online instructions to navigate the identity verification process.

Current state legislation aimed at reforming and fixing the EDD agency includes SB-232, which would set deadlines for EDD to fix its computer system and call centers, and mandate the agency come up with a plan to handle future recession surges.

SB-58 and SB-39 aim to prevent future fraud by keeping social security numbers off of EDD correspondence and requiring EDD to cross-check prisoner names with those of unemployment claimants.

Ultimately, the Moores in Valley Center were able to get their claim through EDD and collected about $6,000 in back benefits.

“A big sigh of relief when we finally saw the deposit hit the account and go 'OK, we're going to be OK now,'” said Gene Moore.

WATCH: Having trouble with EDD? You're not alone