East Bay woman watches via text as scammer drains EDD benefits

SAN RAMON, Calif. (KGO) -- Tawnya Coogan is having a tough financial go of it during this pandemic and was surprised when she recently received an email from the EDD.

"It said 'Action needed on your unemployment insurance claim,'" she says.

RELATED: EDD troubles 6 months later -- has anything improved?

She hadn't made a claim, so she went to the EDD website and checked her personal information on her EDD account. There, the San Jose resident found a Los Angeles address.

"There is also a phone number listed there, and that phone number is not mine either," she tells 7 On Your Side. "I am like, 'This is suspicious to me,' and then I happen to see your thing I have on Facebook about EDD fraud, and I am like, 'Wow! What timing is this!'"

The report she saw was about jail inmates faking identities and ripping off the EDD. After watching 7 On Your Side's report, she looked up the EDD fraud hotline.

WATCH: DA explains how inmates at San Mateo County jail, including convicted murderers, got $250K in EDD benefits
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While a million workers still can't get unemployment benefits, EDD paid out a quarter million dollars to jail inmates running a scheme behind bars.



"I have tried calling that three or four times," she says. "All I get is an automated system there is no one you can talk to."

Here is part of that recording: "The office has limited staff availability and there are no agents available to take your call at this time. You may leave a message or fax a report proving any available information and details known."

The EDD is being pretty upfront. They're not going to talk to you. Even if you leave a message, they may not talk to you.

There is more of that recording: "You will not receive a call back unless additional information is required by the EDD."

Tanesha Kelly is from San Ramon and knows all about the hotline. A fake unemployment claim caused her disability payments to be stopped by the state. She contacted the EDD and was directed to the fraud hotline.

RELATED: Scammers get EDD benefits while 1 million jobless still can't

"So I left a voicemail," she says. "I couldn't help but think, if this is happening to a lot of people, how many more voicemails are there, voicemail messages, what number am I? When are they going to get to my message?"

After she left that message, apparently nothing was done and her EDD debit card was drained. She watched it happen via text.

"The first text message came in, and it was 'your balance is like $50.' Then five minutes later it came in and 'your balance is now $30.'" She says it just kept going: "Five minutes later it comes in and says my balance is $8.53."

7 On Your Side contacted the EDD for Tanesha, as well as all of her state lawmakers, too. Finally, the EDD cleared her account and now 7 On Your Side is working on getting her debit card released.

VIDEO: Unemployed workers share how they got through EDD system to finally receive benefits
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"Just keep trying, keep calling, keep on them." Stories of successfully receiving unemployment benefits are trickling in, and workers share their encouragement and tips for success.



7 On Your Side asked EDD for an explanation and it referred us to a press release that did not address the issue.

The EDD is in the middle of a two-week reboot. It says once that is done the system will work better. 7 On Your Side will report back.

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



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