Doctor warns EDD about scammers filing phony claim in his name; EDD sends a check anyway

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- We've been reporting about massive fraud at the Employment Development Department during the pandemic. The EDD admits it paid criminals billions of dollars for phony unemployment claims.

It's happened again, this time with fraudulent disability claims. The EDD just locked 345,000 suspicious accounts.

However, 7 On Your Side has learned, some doctors detected this fraud months ago, and tried to report it. but got nowhere.

One doctor tried for weeks to tell EDD someone used his identity to file a phony claim in his name. The EDD's response? It sent him a check anyway.

RELATED: CA suspends 345K disability claims as scammers take to impersonating doctors

Robert Pousman is an anesthesiologist in Santa Rosa, so he was puzzled when the EDD began sending him notices about his account.

"Back in October, I started getting notices from the EDD about changes made to my account. And I thought, well I didn't make any account," he said.

"I got on their website, I didn't make an account. So I can't check my account," Pousman continued.

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The notices said the doctor just updated his mailing address... and his treatment facility. He realized someone used his name to file a phony disability claim.

Surely the EDD would want to know about this right away.

"You have to be on hold for four or five hours at a time," Pousman said.

But when he tried calling the number on those notices, no one picked up. He filed a fraud report online. No one responded. He left a message on the fraud hotline. Never heard back.

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So, he made copies of the notices and sent them to the EDD, covered with warnings.

"Saying, 'This is all fraudulent. I never opened these accounts, they're fraudulent,'" he said. "I told them, 'Cancel this claim, just close it immediately before any checks are sent out.'"

But it was too late. Instead of canceling the claim, the EDD sent the scammer a check for $2,700!

"I'm speechless," he said.

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It was for two weeks of disability pay on that phony claim. And it said he'd be getting $1,350 dollars each week.

"I wrote void all over the check," Pousman explained.

Luckily, Robert got that check instead of the scammers. But what about the next one?

The notice showed someone had changed the mailing address for that account.

"A coworker sat on hold for four hours; someone picked up, she was shocked," Pousman said.

With help from his coworker, the doctor finally got EDD to pick up the phone.

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"I told them everything that's going on, that I'm getting checks... I have submitted an online complaint of fraud. I have left voicemails, and she said, 'Oh, okay, well then just mail the check back to the address that's on the check.' And I said, 'No, I'm not real comfortable doing that,'" Pousman said,

Pousman's wife Laurie recalls all the unemployment fraud last year - now this.

"For him to have to go through this much to try to tell them there's fraud, I mean that's crazy," she said.

"Not only are they not being proactive in trying to find fraud, they don't have a system in place, it seems, to report fraud," Laurie continued.

RELATED: EDD misclassifies Bay Area woman struggling to get benefits for 15 months

Pousman contacted 7 On Your Side. We told EDD this doctor was trying to report a scam. The EDD investigated and tells us it has shut down that phony claim and contacted Robert to tell him so.

However, Pousman says he has yet to speak with anyone from the EDD.

Then last week, the EDD announced it has shut down 345,000 disability claims, believing most are fraudulent. The decision came three months after Pousman tried to report the fraud.

RELATED: Bay Area man loses all his benefits after returning EDD overpayment

The EDD did not estimate how much was paid to these scammers since then.

"I'm so glad you guys may be pursuing this... all of us pay our taxes; this is really frustrating," Laurie told 7 On Your Side.

"With all the things we could be spending money on, this is a complete waste," said Robert Pousman.

We've learned the fraud began when criminals stole identities of hundreds of doctors and used their credentials to authorize phony claims. Also, 27,000 newly-registered physicians must prove they are legitimate before they can authorize disability benefits -- and many truly sick or disabled patients are caught in the crackdown, their benefits locked too.

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

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