Tampa, Florida-Since the pandemic began, 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 regain stolen profits, Team I chases the responsible person and what goes on to help people keep waiting. I dug into what was being done.
“I’m out of money”
Christina Long has been in a loop for the last few months.
“It’s a constant cycle of logging in to DEO, clicking on that link, sending it to ID.me, confirming it, receiving the message, and waiting,” Long said trying to collect unemployment benefits. , I said while showing my daily life to Team I. ..
She lost her job earlier this year.
“It’s really difficult. I can’t even describe how hard it was,” Long said.
Long was eventually paid the unemployment allowance she owed and was able to collect it on a regular basis, which lasted only about a month.
“April was when I received an email from DEO that my PIN had changed,” Long said. “I receive another email stating that someone has changed my bank information.”
For a long time, reported this issue to DEO, filed fraud and identity theft reports online, changed PIN and security questions, closed bank accounts, and identified through state contractor ID.me. confirmed.
“By the time I deposited it in my account, the money was gone,” Long said.
For a long time I was able to see the bank account information that someone added on their behalf.
A police report, two calls to the fraudster’s bank and Venmo, and countless calls to DEO, Long said he struck a state wall without a penny.
“I haven’t contacted anyone for weeks. Weeks,” Long said.
Team I was with Long when she tried to call DEO again.
This message was repeated every time. “All phone lines are busy and we cannot offer callback options at this time.”
The message ended by thanking the caller for “patience during this busy time” before disconnecting.
“Literally, you can do it from the time it’s open to the time it’s done, and you don’t get anyone,” Long said.
Stopping traffic reveals evidence of personal information theft
Others I-Team spoke to have never applied for unemployment benefits and have only noticed that they are victims of the theft of personal information by their employers.
But after discovering that a debit card worth tens of thousands of dollars was stolen, police told I-Team that the blow to taxpayers is 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 that the driver had a “wide history of fraud.”
At the transportation stop, officers found two Bank of America Employment Development Department (EDD) debit cards. This is a California unemployment allowance.
I-Team has acquired a stop body camera image. I hear one officer telling another person: “It’s probably going to be an unemployment allowance scam. For these two cards … it’s like my third card I did. If you look at these cards, 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 that he knew the suspect from the dating app, but did not allow him to “use his Social Security number ID.”
The second victim is unaware of the suspect and has been in jail 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 it has sent at least 35 profit fraud cases to DEO.
Keith Givens, a special agent with the FBI in Orlando, told Team I that there were reports of up to $ 250 billion in unemployment fraud nationwide.
According to Givens, employers can do more to stop fraud by staying high on the list they received from DEO 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.
“Everywhere from local Florida gangsters to enterprising individuals and, if you do, employers trying to scoop up a little money from above,” Givens said. “And on the other side of the scope, we see that there are international organizations operating abroad and the individuals they hire here to perform low-level tasks that encourage crime.”
After reviewing federal documents, Team I found a man in Melbourne, Florida that fits the description.He was This year, he was sentenced to federal prisonFor acting as a “money mule” to support foreigners engaged in fraud, including unemployment fraud.
“This should be relevant to all Floridians,” Gibun said. “When money is diverted from individuals who need to legally use it for unemployment insurance, it becomes more difficult for everyone to get the support they need.”
DEO estimates that fraudulent payments prevented $ 11.2 billion. We are working with state and federal authorities to recover the $ 1.9 billion that Florida paid for fraudulent charges.
But Long says he doesn’t know how long he or he can wait because his unemployment account remains locked.
“People are really working hard. They are trying to do everything they can, just like I do,” Long said. “I just want someone to be accountable for it. You know it’s broken. Do something to fix it.”
For Florida Personal Information Theft Victim Kitclick here..
Report incidents to three major credit bureau fraud departments: Equifax, Experian and Transunion
Ask the credit bureau to put a “fraud warning” on your credit report
Contact each creditor’s fraud department (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:
“The ministry takes reemployment support 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 reemployment support scams known in Florida. To date, the ministry has prevented an estimated $ 11.2 billion in fraudulent payments, which is expected to be close to $ 20 billion by September 2021.
Here’s an example of how to prevent fraud in Florida:
The department’s top priority is to prevent, detect, and address reemployment support fraud and identity theft, and in 2014 the department implemented the Fraud Initiative Rating and Rules Engine (FIRRE), a state-of-the-art detection program. did. Used to investigate suspicious billing activity. In addition to the FIRRE system, the ministry has a long-established identification procedure that requires the claimant to be identified before processing a claim for reemployment assistance benefits. The department has multiple tools and mechanisms for real-time monitoring of fraud.
In 2020, the ministry partnered with trusted technology partner ID.me to expand its partnership in February 2021 for new claimants applying for reemployment assistance benefits. Partnerships with ID.me’s technology solutions will help protect Floridian identities from fraud and strengthen current fraud protection measures. Florida was the first state to implement ID.me as an identity verification resource for claimants who could not access their CONNECT account, and the ministry continues to work on logistics that fully integrates the ID.me ID verification tool into the CONNECT system. is.
The department has implemented an alert system that notifies reemployment support claimants when bank information or PIN numbers change with CONNECT.Notification comes from [email protected], Official DEO email address. If the complainant believes that someone has stolen his ID, accessed his account, and is currently locked out Reemployment Support Help Center, Another tool that departments need to mitigate cases of reemployment support scams and personal information theft.
The department also provides a personal information theft toolkit detailing what Floridians should do if they are victims of 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 underway in the department, and we continue to look for additional ways to mitigate cases of reemployment assistance fraud and protect Floridian identities. However, claimants are always advised to ensure that their account information, such as contact information 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 make sure they are official communications and mitigate cases of reemployment assistance fraud and personal information theft.
Florida has a $ 1.9 billion share of fraudulent payments, 2.2% of the country’s estimate. The ministry is actively working to recover these funds paid for fraudulent claims. We work with the US Department of Labor’s OIG office to refer cases to appropriate law enforcement and prosecutors at the state and national levels. The department cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
If you have verified your identity on ID.me and your CONNECT account remains locked, the claimant can now notify the department.Please refer to the Reemployment Support Help Center Notify the department that the reemployment assistance request is locked. At the Reemployment Support Help Center,I am the petitionerSelect “,” and select “Account login supportThen, select the next set of options that match your login problem to notify the department. “