Citing “a strong suspicion of recent fraud,” the state’s Employment Development Department is actively investigating reports of suspicious mailings regarding unemployment benefits that people all over the state have received.
The agency noted that between January and June, 60% of notices requiring additional documents were responded to by legitimate claimants.
But in July, the response rate plunged to 15% and in August, 9%. That indicated “a strong suspicion of recent fraud that will go unpaid since the EDD will not receive the necessary documents on these claims to prove identity,” the agency said in a news release.
According to the EDD “Fraud attempts have increased during the pandemic, and individuals are exploiting the very efforts of California to issue unemployment benefit payments as quickly as possible to workers impacted by COVID-19. The EDD’s investigation team is working closely with local, state, and federal partners to expose, stop, and hold offenders accountable. While specific details cannot be shared at this time at the risk of jeopardizing investigations, recent schemes have triggered multiple mail items with different names sent to addresses throughout the state.”
One of the scams pointed out by the EDD involve debit cards. “Non-claimants may receive debit cards that have to be activated by the individual named on the card with personal identifying information before benefits can be accessed. The card items can be returned to EDD or Bank of America and will be destroyed.”
A large number of the mail items are notices requiring additional identifying documents be provided to the EDD before the claim can be paid. Such notices are part of EDD’s preventative Identity Verification process.
However, “While 60% of such notices requiring additional documents were responded to by legitimate claimants in January through June of this year, the response rate dropped significantly to 15% in July and 9% in August – indicating a strong suspicion of recent fraud that will go unpaid since the EDD will not receive the necessary documents on these claims to prove identity.”
It also issued this warning: “Californians should be aware to not provide the multiple mail items they may have received to people who may show up at their door claiming to be collecting materials for EDD. EDD representatives will not come to your home.”
The EDD has information posted on its website encouraging people who do receive such mail or see other suspicious activity to report it to EDD right away. It also has information about how to return the multiple mail items to the EDD.
The problems California residents have found with possible fraud are not unique to the state. The FBI in July reported a “spike in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims complaints related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic involving the use of stolen personally identifiable information.”
It said people from “several states have been victimized by criminal actors impersonating the victims and using the victims’ stolen identities to submit fraudulent unemployment insurance claims online.”