Hundreds receive unemployment letters that don’t belong to them, EDD investigating as fraud

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Hundreds of people are receiving unemployment letters and debit cards that don’t belong to them—an issue the state is investigating as fraud.

On the other hand, tens of thousands of others have been checking their mailboxes since March, waiting on unemployment that six months later, still hasn’t come.

17’s own weatherman, Kevin Charette, has received eleven letters from the Employment Development Department (EDD), despite not being unemployed. They’re all addressed to his house—just not in his name.

The various names they are addressed to are people he does not know, and they aren’t former residents of his home either.

Dozens of others, like Kevin, have experienced this too. They say some envelopes feel firm, clear there’s a debit card inside. Others have an account number.  

“This is really strange,” said Wasco resident, April Melgoza. “It’s not one. It was like seven of them.”

Mariela Ramirez of Bakersfield added, “I honestly believe that people are just double-dipping, and that affects us, taxpayers. It does make me feel violated.”

That’s why Bakersfield Assemblyman Rudy Salas called for an emergency audit of the EDD.

“People are taking advantage of the pandemic and are trying to fraud, trying to scam individuals out of their debit cards, out of their information,” Salas said.

Auditors are now investigating whether this is an issue of fraud, faulty technology, or human error.

“That would be a little alarming if the employment department is making that many mistakes because these people might be waiting for that check to pay that mortgage or get groceries on the table, and I’ve got their account number right here my hand,” Kevin said. 

Salas is also demanding other answers from the EDD.

He added, “why are we still seeing backlogs? How come it’s taking so long for individuals to even talk to somebody when they’re calling EDD? And when they do finally get through, sometimes they’re hung up on, or when they finally reach somebody they’re still not able to resolve their issue.”

On Twitter, the EDD acknowledged the possibility of identity theft. In a statement, the department said it’s working to prevent this and “prosecuting the unscrupulous offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”

 If you’ve received an unemployment letter incorrectly, the EDD says to report it immediately. The department has a fraud hotline at 1-800-229-6297 or a website.

Then, the EDD advises you to write “return to sender” on the envelopes to return to your mailman.

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