BELLEVUE, Wash. - The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs released its report after tracking crime and arrest data from more than 230 state, county, municipal and tribal agencies.
Last year, fraud was committed every nine minutes in Washington state. In total, nearly 60,000 cases were reported.
Unemployment fraud had detectives caseloads skyrocketing.
"Our resources are not unlimited and the more fraud that is occurring around the state the more taxing it is for all investigating agencies," says Steve Bernd with the Seattle FBI bureau.
Data shows just 2.7% percent of Washington fraud cases from 2020 have been cleared, meaning 97.3% of cases are still open. The FBI is called to assist local agencies with many of these cases due to their complexities.
"Just the nature of financial crime, just adds other layers. You need people with a lot of expertise to try to look into these things and they sometimes take a lot of time to solve, it's not just necessarily put out a picture of a bank robber and wait for tips to come in, you have to do a lot of investigative work," says Bernd.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle with fraud is often the location of the suspect: "Often they're overseas, it makes it very difficult," says Bernd.
"I was just beside myself because I mean who would target a nonprofit?" says Brenne Schario, Executive Director of the Bellevue nonprofit Bridge Disabilities Ministries. They help people with disabilities improve the quality of their lives in many ways. They were hit with unemployment fraud in April, just when people were starting to realize it was a serious issue.
"You have to spend all that time tracking down and trying to stop the fraud and reporting it to the proper authorities, the police, and it’s not only money, it's identity," says Brenne.
Brenne says it’s an unsettling and upsetting privacy violation. She adds she and her employees reported it immediately.
"So we could get that person, so that person who was a fraudster would not be able to victimize anybody else," says Brenne.
Like a majority of cases, Brenne believes the perpetrator has not yet been caught.
Officials with the FBI say if you believe you are a victim of fraud, it is crucial that you report it immediately. The more time that goes by, the harder it is to investigate.
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