DEO trying to combat scammers running unemployment scheme
Sophisticated scammers could be claiming thousands in unemployment money, in your name, even if you’re not unemployed. It’s just the latest problem plaguing Florida’s department of economic opportunity.
The DEO is aware of the problem but can’t say how much money has been stolen.
DEO Director Dane Eagle confirms the matter is being investigated with federal officials.
Unemployment claims are being stolen right out from under people who want to claim their money. High tech scammers are stealing what could be millions of dollars.
Alex Kouse was one of the many victims. He was claiming his funds when something weird began happening. He could see information in his account changing while he was logged in.
He began a screen record as proof that something was altering his account. He described it as if a computer had taken over his account.
It turns out it was no computer but rather scammers trying to claim his unemployment funds.
“I tried to catch it in time. I changed my pin number and everything and thought it was good,” Kouse explained.
But the scammer was relentless. They continued to alter his account every time he logged in to claim his money.
“Having my information changed within seconds of me putting in my own information…it’s frustrating,” Klouse stated.
Vanesa Brito is an unemployment advocate who has helped hundreds of people with their claims. She describes the attacks as a sophisticated group of hackers.
“They have real time access to your information. They know when you log into claim weeks and they know when you log out,” Klouse explained.
Brito helps people daily and she believes the fraud is out of control.
“About 50% of cases I deal with all day are fraud related cases,” Brito said.
The Lee County School District confirmed Tuesday that they’ve had 76 employees who were victims of unemployment fraud.
Lee health also had cases– but couldn’t say how many since they don’t track the data.
“It does exist. We are seeing a lot of people whose identity has been compromised on the dark web,” explained DEO Director Dane Eagle.
The matter is so serious that the DEO has emblazoned a fraud warning across their web page.
“It’s a national crime ring. They find ways every time you stand something up they find another way around it,” Eagle explained.
Eagle however couldn’t say how many millions might have been stolen.
“We don’t have those numbers because the CONNECT is not what it needs to be but it will be soon,” he said.
The state approved spending $72 million to rebuild the site but it won’t happen overnight.
“I would say that claimants over time will start seeing changes and then within a year’s time they might see a more significant change and then by two years we’ll be done with that modernization project,” Eagle said.
Every time a company faces a fraudulent unemployment claim ultimately they have to pay more for unemployment insurance.
For bigger companies this could mean tens of thousands of dollars more a year.
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