EDD mistakenly takes $10,000 from SF man's account in attempt to fight suspected fraud

"Both said there's no problem with my card... But I was like, clearly there's a problem if I'm missing $10,000."

ByRenee Koury KGO logo
Friday, October 23, 2020
EDD mistakenly takes $10K from man's account
One San Francisco man had a shock when the EDD clawed back thousands of dollars in benefits -- a mistake stemming from their fight against scammers.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The EDD has been battling a wave of unemployment fraud by cutting payments to suspected scammers. However, legitimate claims are getting swept into the crackdown.

7 On Your Side heard from many unemployed workers, who said it happens without warning - they go to use their EDD debit card and it's blocked. One man had an even bigger scare: His money vanished entirely.

Anthony Serafino lost his job at Lucky Strike bowling alley when the pandemic shut it down. He'd been collecting unemployment ever since.

Until the EDD took it back again.

VIDEO: Homeless mom and son finally receive EDD benefits

At long last, Shelby Hughes's EDD delayed and desperately-needed unemployment benefits came through -- but people all over California have also stepped in to offer support.

"They froze my account and took my money... super weird," Serafino said. "The really weird thing is that I didn't get informed about any of this. If anything happens they should inform me."

Serafino discovered something was wrong when he tried to pull $20 off his EDD debit card. It was "blocked."

"So I went in the bank and they said, 'Oh no we can't help you. That's an EDD card, you have to call EDD,'"said Serafino.

But no one at the EDD could explain why his account was frozen.

"They said only Bank of America can do that. I called Bank of America. They said only EDD can do that... it went back and forth," Serafino said.

RELATED: Here's how investigators caught inmates running EDD scam ring out of jail

Eventually the bank did unfreeze his account... but look what happened to his money. It went back to the EDD one payment at a time, until all his money was gone.

"It was exactly $10,000. It was in different increments, but it added up to $10,000," said Serafino.

Serafino contacted EDD and the bank.

"Both said there's no problem with my card. So since there's no problem, they couldn't help me. But I was like, clearly there's a problem if I'm missing $10,000," he laughed.

Serafino believes his account had been flagged by the EDD for fraud, because a scammer stole money off his card several months ago.

The bank did replace the fraudulent withdrawals, and he thought the problem was fixed. Until now.

VIDEO:Woman watches via text as scammer drains EDD benefits

Identity theft is already a horrible crime. Now, scammers are stealing Californians' EDD accounts, draining them of their benefits while the victims watch helplessly.

He wants his money back. "I pay taxes and work, and it's my turn now to get back on that, and like, I'm not getting back. It's not fair to me at all."

Serafino contacted 7 On Your Side - we reached out to the EDD and State Senator Scott Wiener who represents his district.

Within days, all that missing money popped back into Serafino's account.

The EDD did not explain what happened, but in a statement it said:

"EDD currently knows of 350,000 debit cards that have been frozen due to various fraud indicators... the department's top priority is to quickly verify the identity of any claimants... that may have been impacted by scammer attacks, while we... shut down potentially fraudulent claims."

"If they told me why the money was gone, I'd be fine, but it makes me feel like if I didn't reach out to you or anybody else, I would never have seen that money again," Serafino said.

The EDD says it's doing everything it can to avoid shutting down legitimate claims while it cracks down on fraud. If your claim is cut off, let 7 On Your Side know about it.

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

App users: For a better experience, click here to view the full map in a new window