Treated Like Criminals

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Unemployment insurance form on a table.

The Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) is responsible for employment services, unemployment insurance benefits, analyzing labor market information, administering Paid Family and Medical Leave and it also helps investigate fraud related to unemployment benefits.

Sometimes investigations can be cumbersome for the victims of unemployment fraud. Seattle resident Deborah Rosenfelt received notice that her husband was being considered for unemployment benefits despite being employed. This raised suspicions that someone was fraudulently using her husband’s identity, so she contacted ESD. (The only day of work her husband missed was to handle the unravelling unemployment fraud situation.)

The bank the Rosenfelts had trusted for 25 years to keep their money safe froze their accounts after they reported the impostor fraud. The family did not have access to any of their own money. (Imagine being treated like a criminal for doing the right thing.) Chase refused to release their funds even after the family provided documentation from ESD confirming that they were not at fault for the fraud. (This is one instance when asking to speak to the manager won’t make you a ‘Karen’.)

Chase closed all checking and savings accounts associated with the Rosenfelts, including their teenage son’s account. (I bet Mama bear came out when that happened.) Chase claimed they were following instructions from the State of Washington by freezing the Rosenfelt family accounts.

The Rosenfelts were later told by Chase that they would be mailed a check with the money from their accounts but were not told how long that would take. Eventually, they regained access to their money and were able to transfer it to another bank. (They were denied access to money they depended on for groceries, bills, and basic survival for a prolonged period.)

ESD Commissioner Suzie Levine defended the actions taken stating that banking partners are notified so they can prevent fraudulent funds from being used. (Levine did not comment on what happens when fraud victims get caught in the bureaucratic crosshairs.) The ESD said it will continue to work with customers to help clear up situations like this one. (I’m not sure you can say they were much assistance in this case.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “What to do if your bank freezes your account because of unemployment impostor fraud,” posted on KOMONews.com on July 1, 2020.

The unemployment impostor fraud investigation at the state Employment Security Department is producing new problems for innocent people whose information was stolen by crooks.

Their banks are freezing their personal accounts.

Deborah Rosenfelt said it was bad enough to discover that criminals had been cashing in on four weeks of unemployment benefits using her husband’s identity. But the punch in the gut came from the bank where they’ve held accounts for 25 years.

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.