RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside police detectives are investigating a new scam involving unemployment benefits that are fraudulently obtained when thieves apply for the assistance, and then have the benefits mailed to unsuspecting victims' addresses.
Detective Brian Money said in some cases the people at the listed addresses are suspects, but in most cases they're innocent victims completely oblivious as to why the unemployment benefits are arriving in their mailboxes.
"We found that a lot of these people are completely not associated with the mail," Money said. "They don't know why it's going to their address; they don't know who the people are who are listed on the mail."
Money said in some cases the scam has led to confrontations when the thieves go to the victims' homes to try to collect the benefits they claim belongs to them.
"We have noticed some recent reports where suspects are going to homes, and demanding this mail, to the point of being threatening to our citizens in Riverside."
Det. Money said Riverside police have four detectives assigned to the case.
"Right now, on our desks, we have roughly 200 cases," said Det. Money. "From the reports I've read, the bad guys are getting anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000 per case, so you can see it adds up quite quickly."
Det. Money said it is potentially costing taxpayers billions of dollars, because it is happening all across the country.
"Certainly, this is a national problem. In fact, I have several cases that include unemployment benefits fraud coming from Arizona, Michigan and Illinois."
Det. Money said no arrests have been made in the case. In California, he said police are having trouble getting the evidence they need from the Employment Development Department, or EDD.
"EDD is completely overwhelmed, they're not being responsive," said Det. Money. "We call, we email, we fax, we can't get a hold of them. But we have several cases where we have suspects and we need a little more evidence form EDD itself to finish up the case."
In some cases, police said they've had to serve search warrants with the EDD just to get the information they need.
"The difficulty is getting all the evidence we need, and some of that does include evidence from the EDD, which has been very difficult to get."
Police want Riverside residents to be on the lookout for EDD benefits that appear suspicious. If they receive anything they weren't expecting from the EDD, detectives are asking those residents to contact the Public Safety Communications Center at (951) 354-2007 so an officer can be sent to collect the suspicious mail.
The EDD has not yet responded to our request for comment.