California Unemployment: Why is Bank of America draining EDD bank accounts?

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.

VIDEO: Homeless CA mother, living with young son in her car, finally receives EDD benefits
EMBED More News Videos

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.



"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.

VIDEO: EDD mistakenly takes $10,000 from SF man's account in attempt to fight suspected fraud
EMBED More News Videos

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.



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.

VIDEO: EDD shuts down 350,000 accounts for suspected fraud, but legitimate workers still left with no money
EMBED More News Videos

Unemployed Californians are left with no benefits as the EDD cuts off 350,000 claims suspected of fraud.



"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.

EXCLUSIVE: Insiders say California EDD unemployment benefit scam was get-rich-quick scheme

"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:
Copyright © 2020 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.