SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- California's Employment Development Department is fighting rampant fraud -- but in the process, many unemployed workers say their accounts are frozen and their money is suddenly gone.
It's a bit like "shoot first, ask questions later."
Bank of America has been draining money out of countless EDD accounts, leaving many workers bewildered and broke.
Michael Conant of San Francisco lost his job as a bellhop when hotels had to close in the pandemic.
It took months to get his EDD benefits, and when he finally did, the bank took them right back.
"Literally I've been betrayed by EDD," said Conant. "The most frustrating part is everyone telling me everything's okay when it's not okay."
Conant discovered something was wrong when he used his EDD debit card to order a pizza and suddenly the card didn't work.
"So then I called Bank of America first to see why the card was suspended. They said, 'Oh only EDD can do that, contact EDD.' So I contact EDD, they say, 'Oh only BofA can do that.'"
When he called the bank again, he said the agent was stunned at what he saw.
"They said, 'Whoa, whoa. The EDD is pulling out the amounts transaction by transaction by transaction,'" Conant recalled.
Here's what he saw: the EDD was pulling Conant's benefits back out of his account, one chunk at a time until all $16,000 was gone.
"He said, 'In my 25 years of banking I've never seen anything like this.' He was as bewildered as I was," Conant said.
Conant saw ABC7's earlier report about Anthony Serafino of San Francisco. The EDD pulled $10,000 out of his account one payment at a time too.
Now viewers all over the state tell ABC7 Bank of America is draining their EDD accounts.
Conant says EDD and the bank offered him no explanation.
"You guys took $16,000 from the account. Where did it go? From their end it was they didn't know what I was talking about," he said.
Bank of America tells us it is removing funds from some EDD accounts due to suspicious activity on the cards.
In Conant's case, he reported his original EDD debit card was stolen in the mail. A thief ran up $16,000 in charges.
Bank of America restored the fraudulent charges weeks ago, only to take all that money back now.
"There is nothing in there. They left nothing," said Conant.
Bank of America said customers now must contact the bank and try to claim that money back.
The bank issued this statement, saying in part:
"The action was part of our broad effort to fight fraud. There has been billions of dollars of fraud during this pandemic in state unemployment programs, including California. We are working with the state and law enforcement to identify and take action against fraudulent applicants, protect taxpayer money and ensure that legitimate applicants can access their benefits.We notified affected cardholders of this action and encouraged them to contact us if they believe the credit should be reinstated."
Conant says he's been trying for weeks and getting nowhere.
"Why am I being caught up in this form of this now? There's emotions that go behind that. You feel... cheated, more or less," he said.
ABC7 did get the bank to replace Serafino's $10,000 and are now working with the bank and state legislators to help Conant. If you've had this happen to you, 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
RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- Unemployment claims paused for 2 weeks as report reveals 600K awaiting benefits in EDD backlog
- Coronavirus employment recovery will not be equal across Bay Area, new report predicts
- $2.5 million in EDD fraud leads to arrest of 44 suspects in Beverly Hills, police say
- CA begins sending extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits, but many will not receive the supplemental aid
- California lawmakers to conduct emergency audit of EDD
- California woman's stolen information used to collect thousands in unemployment benefits
- Proposed $300 unemployment benefit 'inadequate,' Newsom says CA working on solutions
- California EDD: The most commonly asked questions we get about unemployment and PUA
- California woman shares hack for getting through EDD's overloaded unemployment helpline
- Florida man erroneously receives 12 letters from the California EDD
- California state senators request Newsom create 24-hour helpline for EDD
- Governor Gavin Newsom unveils new task force to tackle EDD backlog
- Out-of-work Californians finally receive benefits, only to be mysteriously cut off
- Unemployed workers share how they got through EDD system to finally receive benefits
- FAQ with EDD: From getting through on the phone to $600 payments, 7 On Your Side gets your questions answered