EDD Wants Its Unemployment Money Back — Clawback Program Requires People Who Got Unemployment Assistance To Prove They Were Working Or Seeking Work

A musician who lost all her unemployment documents when her home burned in a wildfire. An arborist who filed for unemployment assistance a year before the pandemic began. A tattoo artist who can’t prove he was working because he ran a cash operation.

These are just a few Californians caught in a state dragnet to recover money from fraudulent unemployment claims.

Late last year, California’s Employment Development Department launched a clawback program, requiring some 1.4 million people who received federal pandemic unemployment assistance to retroactively prove they were working or seeking work. That program, which ended in September, was aimed at helping people who don’t usually qualify for unemployment benefits because they are freelancers or small-business owners.

As of Jan. 4, one out of five recipients who received the notice has responded. The state says a majority have been deemed eligible and won’t have to repay, but some are unable to provide documentation, leaving them on the hook to repay benefits that could add up to tens of thousands of dollars. If they can’t pay, the state could collect the money in a variety of ways, such as wage garnishments or taking them to court.

“They are going to want money back from me that I don’t have,” said Donna Casey, a musician who could owe EDD more than $30,000 after losing her home in the August Complex fire in 2020. “What are they going to do to me, put me in jail? At least I’ll have a place to live.”

Policy experts had warned against the clawback program, noting it would hurt poor Californians who were already disproportionately sidelined from the job market by the pandemic.

Even former federal prosecutor McGregor Scott, hired by the state to lead a separate investigation into large-scale unemployment fraud, expressed skepticism that the effort would recoup much of some $20 billion lost to fraudulent claims, including millions of dollars of state-approved payments to prison inmates. Advocates suggested letting claimants like Casey keep the money regardless of proof, but the state is holding firm.

That’s left many Californians in a bind.

Some who were contacted by EDD said they are terrified of losing their homes. Many are furious that the responsibility fell on them after they already received the money. And others simply don’t know where to turn for help.

Casey had lost gigs and stopped selling homemade jewelry at festivals when the lockdown began. Then she lost all her documentation when her house in Trinity County burned in a wildfire, just after her daughter died of a lung infection.

Unemployment was a lifesaver as Casey searched for work throughout the pandemic, including applying to an Amazon warehouse. But, at 67-years-old, she couldn’t lift enough to qualify for the job.

Casey, however, never thought she might have to pay back her benefits.

Now living in Berkeley with one of her daughters, Casey has some photos of her old business cards that she’ll send to the agency. She also hopes EDD will speak with the music groups she played with – but she worries that won’t cut it.

Similarly, at the start of the pandemic, Sasha Emery was living in an RV partly paid for by federal emergency funds after her Paradise home burned down. After finally getting into affordable housing during the pandemic, she signed up for unemployment when the few available jobs didn’t pan out.

When the notice arrived asking for proof or repayment, shock turned into tears. All Emery has to offer are records of her dire situation: food stamps, Medi-Cal documentation and potentially the federal assistance she received after the fire.

If a recipient can’t offer the necessary proof, and cannot repay the funds at once or in installments that could include 3% interest, EDD may seek the money in a number of ways. The agency could put a lien on property, take up to 25% of a recipient’s wages, withhold state and federal tax refunds or lottery winnings, deduct benefits from future unemployment or state disability insurance benefits, or file a lawsuit.

Source: The OC Register

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5 Ways Your Credit Card Info Might Be Stolen And How To Prevent It

While the introduction of chip-and-pin technology made it more difficult for someone to use a stolen credit card for fraudulent transactions in person, hackers tend to be endlessly creative when it comes to theft. The reality is, there are plenty of ways thieves can get their hands on your credit card account numbers, which they can easily use to make purchases or wreak other types of havoc using your name.

A stolen credit card or account number could also be one of the first signs of identity theft, so keep an eye out for credit card fraud and take steps to mitigate the damage if you find any.

  1. Phishing emails

Phishing emails may look official, but these fraudulent messages are crafted with a nefarious purpose. Most phishing emails try to get you to click a button or link that takes you to a familiar-looking fraudulent site to enter your account information.

Another common phishing tactic is to provide an urgent (and entirely bogus) reason that you need to call a company, like your credit card company or Social Security office, list a fraudulent phone number and when you call, request your personal information, and even your card details, to “confirm your identity.”

2. Spyware

Downloading, or even opening, the wrong file from an email or website can add spyware to your computer, which is put there with the goal of exporting your card details and other information hackers can use to steal your money or your identity. Be careful what you download and prevent spyware by purchasing your own antivirus software. 3.

3. Public Wi-Fi networks

Public internet networks, like the ones you find in hotels and airports, can easily put you at risk if you enter your account information or open sensitive documents and someone is monitoring the network. Make sure to install a VPN on your computer if you need to use the internet away from home fairly often.

4. Your trash

Finally, don’t forget that some thieves still try to steal your credit card data the old-fashioned way. Your trash can be a treasure trove when it comes to finding credit card and account numbers or for figuring out which companies you use for your savings or investment accounts.

5. Major data breach

Large institutions, including banks and retail businesses, may be the victim of a data breach that puts your credit card information and other personal details at risk. Some of the biggest data breaches of the last decade, including the Capital One data breach of 2019, led to tens of millions of consumers having their information stolen.

What to do if your credit card number is stolen

If your credit card number has been stolen, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlines the steps you should take right away:

• Report the loss of your credit card or card number to your issuer immediately, which you can usually do using its toll-free number or 24-hour emergency phone number.

• Follow up with a letter or email that includes your account number, the date and time the card was noticed missing and when you reported the loss.

• Check your credit card statement carefully for purchases you didn’t make, and let your card issuer know of any fraudulent transactions immediately.

• Carefully monitor your credit reports to make sure nobody has more of your information and that the theft of your card hasn’t led to other instances of identity theft.

• You can check your credit reports for free once a year from all three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—using the website AnnualCreditReport.com.

How to protect your credit card information

When it comes to protecting your credit card information and identity, there are plenty of steps you can take right away. Most of them are also easy to implement, including the following:

Only use secure websites

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it’s crucial to avoid entering your credit card numbers and personal information on unsecured websites. “Sometimes a tiny icon of a padlock appears to symbolize a higher level of security to transmit data,” according to the bureau’s site. “This icon is not a guarantee of a secure site but provides some assurance.”

Don’t give your account number over the phone

The FTC warns that you should proceed cautiously with anyone who wants your credit card number over the phone. This is especially true if they called you to initiate the transaction.

Check your credit card statements regularly

The best way to protect against credit card fraud is by keeping a close eye on your accounts. Check your statements at least once a month to make sure each charge on your credit card is actually yours. If you find suspicious charges or purchases on your accounts, inform your credit card issuer right away.

Keep an eye on your card during in-person transactions

If you’re using a credit card in a restaurant or a retail store, try to avoid situations where the employee processing your card walks away from you and takes your card out of your view. If they are able to take your card into another area away from you, they might have the chance to write down your card number, expiration date and security code.

Source: Bankrate

The Most Common Social Security Scams and How to Avoid Them

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Scammers use phone calls and email messages to impersonate Social Security personnel and trick people into giving up money and personal information.
  • Common tactics include threatening the suspension of Social Security benefits or charging for services the Social Security Administration provides for free
  • Scams should be reported to your local authorities, the SSA Office of the Inspector General, or the Federal Trade Commission.

Source: Investopedia