California Unemployment: Scammers get EDD benefits while 1 million jobless still can't

"I was kind of shocked to see four different people with my address on them."

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Saturday, August 8, 2020
Scammers get EDD benefits while 1M jobless can't
The California EDD said that they're in an active nationwide investigation regarding identity theft and fraudulent claims.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A stunning development after 7 On Your Side reported on the Florida man who suddenly received 12 letters from the California EDD, all addressed to strangers. Now, reports are flowing in about dozens more EDD letters popping up in mailboxes across California. Turns out scammers had used random addresses to make fraudulent unemployment claims.

What's so infuriating is that more than a million jobless Californians still can't get benefits for legitimate claims, and yet, it appears the EDD has paid tens of thousands of dollars to con artists.

RELATED: Florida man erroneously receives 12 letters from the California EDD

The EDD won't say how much is gone -- but now it's trying to claw the money back, which explains this flurry of letters.

We told you about Barry O'Brien of West Palm Beach, Florida. He suddenly received 12 letters from our EDD, addressed to four complete strangers.

"I looked at the envelope, and I said, 'What is this...?'" O'Brien recounted. "I don't know who these people are, how did four people get to use my address?"

RELATED: Lawmakers call for accountability for EDD's 'unacceptable' performance

Now 7 On Your Side has heard from viewers all across California. They too were surprised to get letters from the EDD -- all addressed to strangers.

They were sent to Gilbert in Bakersfield, to Emma in Encino, Sarah in San Francisco, and Debby in Riverside County.

FAQ WITH EDD: From getting through on the phone to $600 payments, 7 On Your Side gets your questions answered

"I was kind of shocked to see four different people with my address on them," Debby Fabela told us.

She opened them to see if someone had stolen her identity. Instead, the notice said EDD paid this person too much in benefits.

"It's stating that they overpaid by $10,000. That's a lot of money... why was there such a huge mistake that somebody received a $10,000 overpayment?" Fabela asked.

VIDEO: Unemployed workers share how they got through EDD system to finally receive benefits

"Just keep trying, keep calling, keep on them." Stories of successfully receiving unemployment benefits are trickling in, and workers share their encouragement and tips for success.

"I don't recognize the name, no one's lived here with that name." David Pacheco in Huntington Beach got a half dozen of the letters -- he was shocked at what he found inside one of them.

"Here's the debit card. Still attached to the paperwork, still glued to it," Pacheco showed us.

An EDD debit card from Bank of America, addressed to someone named Valerie. And here's her award notice, saying she qualifies for up to $14,000.

RELATED: EDD complaints still pouring in as $600 benefit ends this week

"If somebody fills out a false application for the state of California, you'd think there would be some safeguards. If it's not received, why would you still issue out money?" Pacheco asked.

Many of those letters are notices of overpayment - the EDD trying to claim that money back. Instead they're reaching these bewildered folks.

We asked the EDD how much money it has doled out to scammers. A spokesperson did not provide that information, citing an ongoing investigation.

RELATED: EDD applicants find themselves in 'purgatory' without an approval or denial

The EDD said:

"Because of suspicious claim activity in UI programs across the country, the EDD is actively involved in a nationwide investigation. Specific details are confidential... but if identity thieves have a significant amount of personal information, claims can still be processed and payment made before additional information can shut down the claim."

What seems so wrong is the fraudsters got past the EDD's ID verification process while many legitimate folks still have not. Desperate workers tell me they are still waiting for ID verification and haven't received a dime since March.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.