Bank of America freezes unemployment benefit accounts just before holiday

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- Millions of Americans waited anxiously during the holidays to find out if they'd have any unemployment benefits in the new year. But in California, thousands of jobless workers still don't have this year's benefits - Bank of America froze their accounts - leaving them with nothing right before the holidays.

This East Bay mom is just one of the hundreds asking 7 On Your Side for help. First, hackers stole the money off her EDD debit card. Instead of reimbursing her for the fraud, Bank of America locked her account. For this family, it was the first year with nothing under the tree.

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"I'm like, 'Christmas is in a few days. I have no money.' 'Well I'm sorry there's nothing we can do...'"

Life was hard enough when the pandemic hit and Diane Davis lost her bartending job.

Unemployment benefits kept her afloat - until someone, somewhere took all of her money.

"I looked at my statement and said holy crap all my money's gone," Davis said.

Davis suddenly found dozens of mysterious charges on her EDD account -- many of them from a company in Africa.

"What is this 'Whogohost West Africa, South Africa?' I don't know," she said.

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All she knew was her unemployment benefits were gone.

"To have $7,000 taken from my account... it hurts. You know. That was my savings," said Davis.

Davis immediately called Bank of America.

"And I'm on the phone for three hours and finally someone answers and click -- you get disconnected," she said.

But instead of reimbursing her for the fraud, Bank of America denied her claim - let the fraudulent charges stand, and then "froze her account."

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"Just froze it! Right before Christmas. Come on, this is unfair, it's cruel!" Davis exclaimed.

Davis says the bank never alerted her to the suspicious charges as they piled up -- many from this web hosting company in Nigeria.

"I have nothing. Absolutely nothing. I think I have 12 cents in the bank right now," said Davis.

She tries the bank once more. "Your call is important to us." Then: "Beep beep. Disconnected!"

The call drops. No answers - no money.

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"Christmas is our favorite holiday. We'd love to all get together, have a nice big meal, open presents ... five, six presents each..." Davis said.

"We just didn't have that this year. It just makes me sad, but..." Davis begins to cry.

We asked Bank of America why it did not reimburse her for the apparent fraud - and now the bank has agreed to reconsider her case, telling 7 On Your Side:

"We review every claim. In instances where we deny a claim, we encourage people who disagree with our decision to ask for reconsideration. We take any new information or further identity verification from the account holder, and if it addresses our concerns we will credit the customer's account.

As KGO-TV has reported nearly every night, criminals have found ways to steal money from the state in an unprecedented unemployment fraud. In partnership with the state and law enforcement officials, we have taken actions that have helped stop billions of dollars in theft by these criminals and protected taxpayer dollars. We have added thousands of additional agents to answer phone calls and review claims for areas of the program we are responsible. We report wrongdoing to law enforcement and assist them in their prosecution of the criminals trying to steal money and undermine this program."


Which gives Davis some cheer.

"Hopefully I'll get my money back and we'll be able to celebrate Christmas at a later date." Davis then begins to sob. "Sorry."

Davis says she's now avoiding the bank and instead EDD is sending her benefits by paper checks.

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

Have a question for Michael and the 7 On Your Side team? Fill out the form HERE!
7OYS's consumer hotline is a free consumer mediation service for those in the San Francisco Bay Area. We assist individuals with consumer-related issues; we cannot assist on cases between businesses, or cases involving family law, criminal matters, landlord/tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please review our FAQ here. As a part of our process in assisting you, it is necessary that we contact the company / agency you are writing about. If you do not wish us to contact them, please let us know right away, as it will affect our ability to work on your case.


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