LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — On Friday, CBS Los Angeles ran a story about a class action lawsuit that alleges Bank of America did not do enough to protect its California Employment Development Department customers from fraud.
Within moments of that story running, dozens of unemployed Californians reached out to Kristine Lazar — desperate for help getting their money back.
"When I saw your exposé on the TV, I started crying, because, you know, I feel like I am beating my head against a wall," Terri Lake, who lives in the San Fernando Valley, said.
She said nearly $3,000 was taken out of her Bank of America EDD account in October at an ATM in Orange County. She has yet to see a dime of it returned to her.
Lake's account has also been frozen, preventing her from collecting incoming benefits while her bills continue to pile up.
"And I literally, I don't have any money," she said.
David Durling said he had about $3,700 taken from his account in September by fraudsters and has had to start using a food pantry for the first time in his life.
"I find myself skipping meals, you know, just to make sure that I'm gonna have enough to pay my rent," he said.
Durling said getting through to someone at Bank of America has become his full-time job.
"I have to get up at 5 a.m. if I don't want to be on hold for two and a half hours," he said.
Bank of America said that it has added thousands of agents to answer phone calls and that it was working on investigating all of the outstanding fraud claims that have been brought to the bank's attention.
Michele Evermore, a senior researcher with the National Employment Law Project, said the issue not only cripples the fraud victims, but also has larger impacts on California's economy.
"For every dollar spent on unemployment insurance, that's $1.61 in local economic activity," she said.
Simone Lawson, a single mother, has been waiting since early December for her fraud claim to be addressed.
"How am I going to handle it, what's gonna get paid and what's gonna have to be delayed, and that's how I've been able to manage as well as absorbing some of my 401k money, because I have no choice," she said. "I have to live."
EDD said it has resolved 95% of its backlogged claims, but when it comes to claims of fraud, only Bank of America could resolve those.
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