EDD blames data breach for fraud, announces investigation

The California Employment Development Department announced Thursday that they are taking new steps to stop fraud, after receiving reports from across the state from Californians who received strange deliveries of EDD unemployment benefit letters and debit cards addressed to other people.

The EDD announced Thursday, that they are working with law enforcement to investigate. They say they believe scammers might be trying to intercept, redirect, or gather mail from fake claims.

In a statement the EDD said, "These perpetrators are often using stolen identity information from national and global data breaches, as well as exploiting expedited payment efforts in the federal PUA program."

Doug Biggs says his mail carrier in Alameda alerted him on Tuesday about the strange delivery.

"He showed me he had 20 letters from the Employment Development Department all addressed to my address but with other people's names on them," said Biggs, showing KTVU a photo of the envelopes.

Biggs says it was unsettling. His wife has been receiving unemployment benefits but none of the letters were addressed to her.

Biggs is one of many Californians who have had their mailboxes flooded with dozens of suspicious EDD letters and debit cards since the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA) began.

"I was quite alarmed," said Dave Terheyden of Pacifica, who says he received three EDD letters that did have his name on them.

He said it was strange because he's on a pension and hasn't worked for three years.

"I'd never filed for unemployment. So getting this with my name and my last four of my social security number, red flags flew right away," said Terheyden, who adds that he went onto the EDD website and filed a fraud report immediately.

The EDD says they are taking steps to stop the fraud. Those include: new bi-weekly certification forms with checks sent separately, and a limit on multiple claims at the same address which seem suspicious.

Terheyden wants the EDD to contact him.

He and others worry they might be mistakenly accused of fraud or penalized.

"Putting me on the hook for something I never applied for," said Terheyden.

"My hope is we don't get penalized or put on some blacklist because we got 20 letters from EDD," said Biggs.

The EDD asks anyone who receives a suspicious letter to go online and submit a fraud report on their website.

EDD Fraud and penalties: What you need to know

Send any fraudulent documents or mail directly to EDD investigators through EDD PO Box 826880, MIC 43, Sacramento, CA 94280-0225.

Or you can write “Return to Sender” on the envelope and provide it to your mail carrier. Envelopes that may contain debit cards that have yet to be activated can also be returned to sender. The cards are sent on behalf of the Bank of America from an address in Tennessee.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@foxtv.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana