Earlier this month, the Beverly Hills Police Department learned criminals were fraudulently obtaining EDD benefits loaded onto EDD debit cards using stolen identities. The monetary value placed on the cards by EDD can be as high as $20,000. Cardholders are able to withdraw up to $1,000 per day, per card.
Suspects have traveled primarily from out of state to obtain these fraudulent EDD cards in California. The suspects will most often have numerous EDD cards in their possession with other people’s identities, along with large amounts of cash. They will then use the cards to lease short-term rentals, rent luxury vehicles, dine at restaurants and purchase high-end merchandise.
The Mercury News reports that In less than two weeks, Beverly Hills Police have found 87 people who are allegedly connected to EDD fraud and identity theft.
Detectives said that they recovered 181 fraudulent EDD cards with a value of over $3.6 million. They also found another $466,000 in case and seven handguns.
“Shoes, clothing, purses. Anything of high dollar value they were spending on EDD cards,” said Beverly Hills Police Department Lt. Max Subin. “Eighty percent of the arrestees were from out of state, and they were renting Airbnb’s and renting high end cars.” Subin credits alert officers and investigators as well as astute shop owners in Beverly Hills for catching the fraud.
Some of those fraudsters have turned informant, showing investigators just how easy it is to defraud EDD.
“We’ve had some of those informants actually log onto a computer and show us how easy it is to go on to the website and log on to EDD,” said Beverly Hills police Lt. Max Subin. “So yes, they are using names of deceased people, using names of people who are incarcerated, using names of people who have businesses and pretty much they are going into the computer and selecting the card.” Subin said many of those names and the associated personal information were simply purchased online.
The Beverly Hills Police Department said it is working with the FBI and the Department of Labor due to the scope of the fraud. Those arrested did not have weapons on them and were booked for identity theft. However, since it is a nonviolent offense, there is no bail due to coronavirus, so they are released.
Meanwhile, Riverside police detectives are investigating a new scam involving unemployment benefits that are fraudulently obtained when thieves apply for the assistance, and then have the benefits mailed to unsuspecting victims’ addresses.
Detective Brian Money said in some cases the people at the listed addresses are suspects, but in most cases they’re innocent victims completely oblivious as to why the unemployment benefits are arriving in their mailboxes. “We found that a lot of these people are completely not associated with the mail,” Money said.
“They don’t know why it’s going to their address; they don’t know who the people are who are listed on the mail.” Money said in some cases the scam has led to confrontations when the thieves go to the victims’ homes to try to collect the benefits they claim belongs to them.
“We have noticed some recent reports where suspects are going to homes, and demanding this mail, to the point of being threatening to our citizens in Riverside.”