Unemployment fraud is a “crisis situation”
Tampa, Florida – Since the start of the pandemic, the Florida Office of Economic Opportunity (DEO) has paid criminals nearly $ 2 billion.
As Florida stops fraud, spends money on prevention tools, and strives to recover stolen profits, Team I is suing whoever is responsible and what is going on to help people wait. I dug into what was being done.
“I have no more money”
Christina Long has been on the loop for a few months.
âIt’s a constant cycle of logging into DEO, clicking that link, sending to ID.me, confirming, receiving the message and waiting,â Long said while trying to collect allowances from. unemployment. , I say, showing my daily life to team I …
She lost her job earlier this year.
âIt’s really difficult. I can’t even describe how difficult it was, âLong said.
Long eventually received the unemployment benefit she owed and was able to collect it regularly, which only lasted about a month.
âIt was in April that I received an email from WD indicating that my PIN had changed,â Long said. “I receive another email saying that someone has changed my banking information.”
For a long time, he reported this issue to the DEO, filed fraud and identity theft reports online, changed PIN and security issues, closed bank accounts, and identified through State Contractor ID .me. confirmed.
âBy the time I deposited it into my account, the money was gone,â Long said.
For a long time, I was able to see the bank account information someone added on their behalf.
A police report, two calls to the fraudster’s bank and Venmo, and countless calls to WD, Long said he hit a state wall without a dime.
âI haven’t contacted anyone for weeks. Weeks, âLong said.
Team I was with Long when she tried to call DEO again.
This message was repeated each time. “All phone lines are busy and we cannot offer callback options at this time.”
The message ended by thanking the caller for their “patience during this busy time” before disconnecting.
âLiterally you can do it from the moment it’s open until the moment it’s finished, and you don’t get anyone,â Long said.
Traffic stop reveals evidence of personal information theft
Other people interviewed by I-Team have never applied for unemployment benefits and only noticed that they were victims of personal information theft by their employers.
But after discovering that a debit card worth tens of thousands of dollars had been stolen, police told I-Team the hit to taxpayers was now two to three times greater.
In September, Tampa Police suspended traffic because the car owner was actively holding an arrest warrant, including alleged misuse of personal information. Police reported the driver had a “broad history of fraud”.
As transportation stopped, officers found two debit cards from the Bank of America’s Department of Employment Development (EDD). This is a California unemployment benefit.
I-Team acquired a stop camera image of the body. I hear an agent say to another person, âThis is probably going to be an unemployment benefit scam. For these two cardsâ¦ it’s like my third card that I made. If you look at these maps, it’s unemployment. 10 times Nine of them, if you don’t have a name it’s a scam. “
One of the victims told police he knew the suspect through the dating app, but did not allow him “to use his social security number.”
The second victim does not know the suspect and has been in prison for 15 years.
One EDD card had a balance of $ 15,000 and the other card had a balance of $ 12,000.
TPD informs Team I that they have sent at least 35 cases of profit fraud to WD.
Keith Givens, an FBI special agent in Orlando, told Team I that there have been reports of up to $ 250 billion in unemployment fraud nationwide.
According to Givens, employers can do more to stop fraud by staying on top of the list they received from WD and responding quickly if no one should have applied for unemployment. is.
Local gangs, employers, these responsible international organizations
Givens said finding the right person for cybercrime can take time, investigations can take years, and can rely on the mutual cooperation of foreign governments.
âEverywhere from local Florida gangsters to enterprising individuals and, if you do, employers trying to grab some cash from above,â Givens said. “And on the other side of the scope, we see that there are international organizations operating overseas and the people they hire here to do low-level tasks that encourage crime.”
After reviewing federal documents, Team I found a man in Melbourne, Florida who matches the description. It was This year he was sentenced to federal prisonFor acting as a âmoney muleâ to support foreigners involved in fraud, including unemployment fraud.
In another case Tampa man faces federal crime For his role, which would have brought in more than $ 170,000 in unemployment benefits.
âIt should be relevant to all Floridians,â Gibun said. “When money is diverted from people who need to legally use it for UI, it becomes more difficult for everyone to get the support they need.”
WD estimates that fraudulent payments prevented $ 11.2 billion. We are working with state and federal authorities to recover the $ 1.9 billion Florida paid for fraudulent charges.
But Long says he doesn’t know how long he can wait because his unemployment account remains locked.
âPeople work really hard. They try to do whatever they can, just like I do, âLong said. âI just want someone to be responsible for it. You know it’s broken. Do something about it.
For Florida Personal Information Theft Victim Kit Click here..
Steps to Protect Your Identity:
- Report identity theft / fraud to the DEO
- Report incidents to three major credit bureaus fraud departments: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion
- Ask the credit bureau to put a “fraud warning” on your credit report
- Contact the fraud department of each creditor (credit card, utility bill, cable bill, etc.)
- Contact your bank or financial institution
- Report the case to a local law enforcement agency
Response from DEO:
âThe ministry takes re-employment assistance scams very seriously, and fraud prevention remains a top priority for government agencies.
Florida continues to be a leader in preventing unemployment insurance scams or known re-employment assistance scams in Florida. To date, the ministry has prevented fraudulent payments estimated at $ 11.2 billion, which is expected to approach $ 20 billion by September 2021.
Here is an example of fraud prevention in Florida:
- The department’s top priority is to prevent, detect and combat fraud and identity theft in re-employment assistance, and in 2014, the department implemented the rules and evaluation engine for fraud (FIRRE), an advanced detection program. did. Used to investigate suspicious billing activity. In addition to the FIRRE system, the ministry has a long-established identification procedure which requires the applicant to be identified before processing an application for re-employment assistance benefits. The department has several tools and mechanisms for real-time fraud monitoring.
- In 2020, the ministry joined forces with trusted technology partner ID.me to extend its partnership in February 2021 to new applicants requesting re-employment assistance benefits. Partnerships with ID.me technology solutions will help protect Florida identities from fraud and strengthen current fraud protection measures. Florida was the first state to implement ID.me as an identity verification resource for applicants who could not access their CONNECT account, and the department continues to work on logistics that fully integrate the ID.me identity verification tool in the CONNECT system. is.
- The department has implemented an alert system that alerts applicants for re-employment assistance when banking information or PIN numbers change with CONNECT. The notification comes from [email protected], the official DEO email address. If the complainant thinks someone has stolen their ID, accessed their account and is currently locked out of the Reuse Assistance Center, another tool that departments need to mitigate cases of employment support scams. reuse and theft of personal information.
- The department also provides a Personal Information Theft Toolkit detailing what Floridians should do if they experience personal information theft and what steps they should take to mitigate fraud in their accounts. did.Click to view the privacy theft toolkit here.
- Fraud detection and investigations are ongoing in the department, and we continue to seek additional ways to mitigate cases of re-employment assistance fraud and protect Florida identities. However, applicants are still advised to ensure that their account information such as contact details and bank account information is accurate and up to date each time they access their account. The complainant should also check suspicious emails and phone calls to ensure that they are official communications and to mitigate cases of re-use assistance fraud and theft of personal information.
Florida has a share of $ 1.9 billion in fraudulent payments, or 2.2% of the country’s estimate. The ministry is actively working to recover these funds paid for fraudulent claims. We work with the OIG office of the United States Department of Labor to refer cases to the appropriate law enforcement and prosecutors at state and national levels. The ministry cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
If you have verified your identity on ID.me and your CONNECT account remains locked, the requester can now notify the service, please refer to Re-employment support center Notify the service that the request for reclassification assistance is blocked. At the Re-employment Assistance Center,I am the petitionerSelect “,” and select “Account login supportThen select the next set of options that matches your connection problem to notify the service. “