SACRAMENTO, Calif — For more than two days Liz Reinstein has been anxiously watching her computer screen, waiting for her turn to verify her identity and hopefully resume her unemployment benefits.
"It's like, I don't want to leave the house because I'm going to lose my place," Reinstein said. She reached out to the Dollars and Sense team after spending 48 hours waiting to connect an online call with a representative for ID.me, the service California's Employment Development Department (EDD) now uses to handle its identity verification.
Reinstein was one of the 1.4 million accounts that EDD suspended on New Year's Eve, without warning, as part of its anti-fraud efforts. Initially, people were told to wait for instructions from EDD about how to verify their identities. Over the past two weeks, the department has been sending out specific links to UI Online accounts that take people to ID.me.
ID.me requires people to provide two forms of identification and take a selfie to prove the person is who they say they are. When it works, the process can be fairly quick, but we've heard from a lot of people, like Reinstein, who ran into some problems.
"They didn't verify me, but they got my information. That's what happened. So, the whole process of verifying me stopped." Reinstein said. "They say there's something. Either, things don't match up, you know, your address in your license or something. They don't tell you what."
From there, Reinstein was sent to meet with an ID.me trusted referee, and that's where she's been ever since. It's been more than 48 hours, she has hardly slept, and she's afraid to even take a shower, worried that she might miss her chance to finally verify her identity.
"The main thing that's scary here is that it says if you don't identify yourself, and we don't get verification of you, within X amount of days... they will cancel your claim, and you won't get your benefits," Reinstein said.
And she is not alone, Vanessa Phillips said she's been trying to connect for the past three days without any luck.
"Wait times are well into 3 hours each day, all day, And when I return after 3 hours, it is still spinning and says 3 hours," Phillips wrote. "It has been impossible to even get in front of a video referee. And I am now running out of time."
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Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is one of several state lawmakers who have introduced legislation to try and fix some of the problems with EDD, but she says what is most needed is accountability and communication.
“I need to know what's happening. And this is how people can survive," Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. "But they need direction, and they need honesty and transparency. And right now we're just doing a terrible job of that, right?”
It's a sentiment, Reinstein can agree with. "I know I'm not alone. But I mean, come on people, at least give us, you know, like a message," she said. "Send me an email through EDD that says they're working on it, there's an issue, don't worry, you'll get your money.”
Once you do manage to verify your identification with ID.me, EDD said it may take up to 30 days for your benefits to finally clear.
How to use ID.me
If you need help with the ID.me process, you can find a step-by-step guide here. EDD says uploading your documents online is the quickest way to verify your identity but ID.me also offers a video call option.
ID.me says you might have trouble using the service to verify your identity if:
- You recently moved.
- Your credit report is locked or frozen.
- Your credit profile contains incorrect information.
- You already verified your identity using ID.me.
- Your submission has an error or typo.
- You submitted expired documents.
- You submitted an unreadable photo.
- You submitted a phone number that is not associated with your name and address.
In these cases, ID.me would likely need to verify using a trusted referee.
ID.me steps for verifying your identity.
Setup your ID.me account
- Check your inbox for an email from ID.me. Click the button in the email to confirm your email address. Then, return to your browser. The page will automatically move forward to the next step.
Secure your account
- Choose an option for multi-factor authentication (MFA). You can receive a passcode via text message or phone call. You can also choose one of the other listed methods which use a phone app or physical key fob to securely send the passcode.
- Most people choose to send the passcode to their phone. Just enter your phone number and then check your text messages or answer the phone to receive your 6-digit passcode.
- Back on your browser, enter the 6-digit passcode and click continue.
- If you want, you can generate and save a recovery code. The recovery code allows you to access your account even if you don’t have the phone or device you used to set up MFA.
Verify your identity
- Choose a document type to submit: driver’s license, state ID, passport, or passport card.
- Either upload existing photos from your desktop OR type in the phone number of a cell phone that can take pictures. If you choose to take pictures with your phone, ID.me will text you a secure link that will open your phone camera.
- Follow the instructions to take pictures of your ID. For a driver’s license, state ID, or passport card, remember to take a photo of the front and back. When you’re satisfied with the photos, click continue.
- Follow the instructions to take a video selfie. Ensure you’re in a well-lit area. You’ll be asked to look at the colors on your phone screen while ID.me takes a short video selfie to verify that you’re really you.
- The final step to verify your identity is to enter your Social Security number.
Confirm and authorize
- Make sure that all your information is accurate and complete. If it is, check the box attesting that the information is accurate, and then click continue. If not, hit the edit buttons to make changes.
- You’ll see a message saying that your identity has been successfully verified. By clicking “Allow and continue,” ID.me will be able to send your information to the agency and you will be granted access to your account.
Viewer tips to expedite the identification process
A viewer working through the ID.me process talked with a representative of EDD on the phone and shared these tips to help you verify your identity more quickly:
- You should provide your non-expired state ID or passport as your primary ID.
- When it comes to the secondary ID, the EDD rep said the W2 would take the least amount of time to verify because employer information is already in the state system.
- If you do not have your W2 for 2019, the last paycheck stub for 2019 would suffice so long as it has your name, address, partial SSN and company information.
- Bank or utility statements can take up to 2-3 weeks to verify.
- Birth certificates and social security earning statements can take 4+ weeks to verify.
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