Faced with a surge of fraudulent unemployment claims, California officials said on Thursday that 350,000 debit cards with unemployment benefits they issued were frozen due to suspicious activity, including many claims from a single address.
Debit cards frozen by the State Department of Employment and Development and Bank of America could represent billions of dollars in payments made since the COVID-19 outbreak began in March.
“The department’s top priority is to work to block potential fraudulent claims while quickly identifying all claimants in this group who may be affected by fraudulent attacks,” the agency said in a statement Thursday.
range Potential scam Surprised some state officials. But Congressman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) also said he was concerned that people who desperately need unemployment benefits are seeing valid claims being put on hold.
“Our office is hearing complaints from legitimate voters for freezing EDD debit cards as part of this anti-fraud measure,” Chiu said. “Once again, the EDD doesn’t seem to be able to solve the scam without harming Californians who rely on them for benefits.”
EDD officials did not respond to questions about how much the benefit amount would be affected by the debit card frozen Thursday.
Law enforcement officers who arrested more than 100 people on charges of unemployment fraud said the debit cards they seized Potentially, benefits of up to $20,000 each were included. If that amount is on each of the 350,000 frozen cards, that’s $7 billion of the $150 billion benefits EDD has paid since the epidemic began.
The EDD said it was sending notices to claimants whose debit cards were frozen asking them to provide identification documents through the agency’s website.
Claimants who do not verify their identity are not eligible for benefits.
Those who have not been notified by the EDD, but still do not have access to the funds, may have frozen their cards by the card issuer Bank of America “due to suspicious transactions” and must contact the bank, institution. said. A spokesman for Bank of America declined to comment.
The agency said investigators are “busy in working with national, state and regional partners to expose, identify and prosecute criminals to the fullest extent of the law.”
Congressman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said one of his voters was the homeless mother of three young girls who spent weeks trying to identify him on a legitimate claim for unemployment benefits.
“EDD still doesn’t know the difference between scammers and desperately needed people,” Patterson said. “For example, 30 customers in the middle house in our district blocked all cards,” Patterson said.
Meanwhile, EDD also Face criticism People calling three separate agency call centers have not been able to reach out to service personnel or get help with delayed claims.
In response, the agency announced that it will consolidate the three call centers from Friday to 7 days a week from 8 am to 8 pm.