Jobless Southern Californians left with twice the frustration from EDD fraud, Bank of America backlog

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ByRob Hayes via KABC logo
Friday, November 13, 2020
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A number of unemployed Californians have been hit twice by the pandemic - first losing their jobs and then getting caught up in scams that have tied up their benefits and drained funds from their accounts.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For Corrine Cobb, the pandemic has hit her hard twice.

First, since she's a senior citizen, she was forced to give up her health-care job. She receives unemployment money from California but ran into problems when scammers got hold of her Employment Development Department debit card.

"I had something like $500 to $600 worth of stuff I know I didn't do," Cobb said.

Cobb applied for and received a new EDD card last month, but getting reimbursed for the fraudulent charges has been a nightmare.

"The first time I waited about an hour," Cobb told Eyewitness News. "Once again they put me on hold but that was like an hour and a half. Then they said 'We'll transfer you, I'll be right back.' They never came back. How can you get your money back if you can't even get through to claims?"

RELATED: Unemployed Californians frustrated by EDD backlogs

California runs all its EDD payments through Bank of America, creating millions of new accounts. BofA tells Eyewitness News it has increased its pre-paid card staffing 20-fold to deal with the influx of calls.

But all across the state, similar problems have been piling up.

Michael Conant had $16,000 removed from his EDD card by Bank of America.

Questions about unemployment benefits or EDD? Expert answers your questions

"I called Bank of America first to ask why the card is suspended and they say 'Only EDD can do that,'" Conant said. "So I contacted EDD and they say 'Oh no, only BofA can do that.'"

KGO, our sister station in San Francisco, uncovered others with similar problems. What do they all have in common? They were all previously targeted by scammers who used their EDD cards or their addresses to apply for EDD cards.

Bank of America says state unemployment programs have been hit with billions of dollars of unemployment fraud during the pandemic.

A BofA spokesman declined to talk on camera about the problem but says the bank is "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."

But for the people caught in the middle of this fraud battle, the long wait for their much-needed money is nerve-wracking.

Cobb says: "I have been on the phone at least four or five different occasions for an hour to two hours waiting on claims and when I call back they say, 'We're just busy.'"