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Cumberland County man says he cannot get someone to verify his identity for owed unemployment benefits

Mark Samuel says he is trying to have his identity verified through the state contracted company ID.me. He says it is taking "forever" to get through to someone.

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. — "It just takes forever," said Mark Samuel of Cumberland County.

Mark has the screenshots to show the wait. 

"You sign on, it says at least a five hour wait," said Mark. "You wait ten hours, and it'll still say five hour wait."

The landscaper says he is owed unemployment benefits from last summer.

"I missed 13 weeks work last summer, and the business took a pretty good hit," explained Mark.

The problem: He says he is waiting to video chat with someone from the state contracted security vendor ID.me to have his identity verified so he can receive the back pay.

"I've been doing this for 45 days," stated Mark. "I'm extremely frustrated, and if I didn't have a full freezer, and we depended on this, and my wife got sick, and we didn't own a business, we'd be in pretty bad shape, and I'm sure there are others in bad shape."

Flashback to September of last year: The Department of Labor and Industry suspected a surge in fraudulent claims after staff members reported a rapid increase in new pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) claims with many out-of-state applicants. Officials said the fraudulent claims are made by scammers who apply for PUA benefits under stolen identities using personal information obtained through data breaches that occurred outside state government.  

FOX43 contacted ID.me to see what people can do to speed up the verification process. 

Nicholas Michael, a spokesman, said via email, "9 out of 10 people go through ID.me's automated verification process in less than 5 minutes. However, we acknowledge that wait times have been less than ideal for those claimants with unique situations that require video chat verification."

After hearing about Mark's issue, Michael said representatives would promptly respond. Mark called FOX43 within the hour to say the issue had been resolved, and he's extremely thankful.

Id.me's website provides insight on why people may have documents denied and ways to avoid delays, including:

  • Claimants should not upload the same document twice. People must upload separate documents for each category. Click here to learn more about primary and secondary documents.
  • People must use only legible, valid, current documents which are not damaged or illegible. Any statement or bill must be dated in the last 90 days, and the address and name must match the other documents and the personal information people enter.
  • People should not submit expired documents as ID.me states those are unacceptable.
  • People should try to prevent image errors. When taking a digital photo of a document, people should check to see that all four corners are visible and that there is no glare or other obstruction. Click here for more tips.
  • Submit both the front and back of documents when prompted. 
  • Do not use photocopies. All documents submitted must be originals.

People who experience issues on ID.me's website are urged to follow this link, where common missteps and mistakes are outlined.

According to Michael, ID.me is currently assisting 25 states, including Pennsylvania, to combat fraud and help clear unemployment backlogs. Through April 19, he says, ID.me verified 3.9 million individuals filing PUA and Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims, preventing nearly 1.5 million fraudulent claims saving taxpayers an estimated $30 billion.

Michael adds, "We’ve blocked more than $1 billion in fraudulent claims each week on behalf of our 25 state partners."

Sarah DeSantis, a spokesperson for L&I, also commented on Mark's issue. She wrote, "L&I expects our vendors to provide timely customer service and we are looking into the issue."

DeSantis added, ID.me's wait times vary by call volume; however, she said the longest wait time L&I is aware of is a few hours. 

"We are unaware of any wait time that has exceeded a day," she added. "Some claimants who have unreliable internet access, including cell service users, may experience connectivity issues that appear to be long wait times. We encourage claimants to use a fast, reliable connection and if they continue to experience issues to reach out to us by emailing ucpua@pa.gov."

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