SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Following widespread reports of fraudulent unemployment claims showing up in people's mailboxes, CBS13 has obtained Employment Development Department data that, for the first time, reveals just how widespread the EDD unemployment fraud may be.
The data includes more than 30,000 addresses that appear to have been used to apply for EDD benefits for 10 or more different people — in some cases more than 1,000 people — at each address.
READ MORE: CBS13 Investigates: Coronavirus Unemployment
It's been widely reported that people across the state are getting unemployment documents sent to their address with other people's names.
"The first week, it was the same two or three people," said Jorjet, one of half a dozen viewers who have reached out to CBS13 to report getting fraudulent EDD claims in the mail.
Now, weeks later, Jorjet says the unemployment documents just keep coming under different names.
The Source Of The Fraud
The EDD previously acknowledged that "perpetrators are often using stolen identity information from national and global data breaches" to apply for benefits in victims' names. They added that scammers are using separate addresses to file multiple fraudulent claims and "will often try to intercept, redirect, or gather mail associated with these claims" at those addresses.
In other words, crooks are stealing victims' identities through data breaches and are applying for unemployment using their names and social security numbers. Then they use someone else's address, like Jorjet's, where they may attempt to pluck certain documents, including EDD debit cards, out of the mail before anyone notices.
30,000 Addresses With 10+ EDD Claims
Now, CBS13 has obtained EDD data that indicates Jorjet's may be one of more than 30,000 addresses used to apply for EDD benefits for 10 or more different people — in some cases more than 1,000 people — at each address.
We counted 23 different names on letters coming to Jorjet's house. The EDD data obtained by CBS13 shows claims filed under 23 unique social security numbers using her address. One of those claims is for Jorjet's mother who lives with her and filed for unemployment. Her claim is still pending while EDD sends them debit cards for others.
Several of the people interviewed by CBS reporters across California also appear on the list.
Darryl Smith's address shows claims filed under 10 different SSNs. The data shows 23 different claims using Daniel Franke's address, and Mike Weaver's address comes up twice with 114 social security numbers total.
After combining duplicate addresses, the data still contained more than 30,000 unique addresses, each used for 10 or more claims.
However, the addresses of more than half a dozen other viewers who say they received fraudulent EDD documents were not on the list. It appears some of those addresses are getting documents for nine or fewer people. In at least one case, sources tell CBS13 that there are more than 10 SSNs associated with the viewer's address, but the address was subsequently changed on EDD records and now only shows eight SSNs listed under that address.
Addresses With Hundreds of EDD Claims
More than 1,300 addresses had 50 or more different SSNs registered at each address. In some cases, there were several unit numbers or mailbox numbers at one location, each receiving hundreds of claims per mailbox, amounting to thousands of claims at each location.
The top 50 addresses with the most EDD claims ranged from 256 to 1,389 claims filed under unique SSNs at each address.
Among the top 50 addresses with the most EDD claims, there are at least eight locations where you might expect multiple claims including homeless shelters, an artist co-op, and a post office general delivery address.
But the vast majority — five out of six addresses — were mailbox rentals with thousands of unique claims or homes that were listed for rent or for sale amid the pandemic.
For instance, the data shows one house in Sacramento that was used to apply for unemployment under more than 1,300 unique social security numbers is currently for sale. The photos online clearly show it's empty but sources say EDD continues to send claims there.
One Southern California strip mall had more than 5,000 claims filed under 26 different mailbox or unit numbers at the one location. There are at least two other mailbox rental locations with more than 2,000 claims that are spread between 21 mailboxes at each location.
Response To The Data
EDD would not comment on why the agency didn't scrutinize hundreds of claims to be filed using the same address. However, sources tell CBS13 that the agency stopped running the report that identifies multiple claims at one address at some point during the pandemic. They say the agency is now running it again. It is not clear if EDD fraud investigators have been given access yet to the full data.
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) reached out to top EDD leadership after learning about the data.
"I suspected that the number might be this large," Chiu said. "I have not heard back, but I do understand from someone close to EDD that this is not a surprise and that the system should have been able to address this, but it did not."
Meanwhile, more than a million legitimately unemployed Californians, like Jorjet's mother, are still waiting for their claims to be paid.
"They enabled fraudsters to get money but ironically, blocked honest Californians from being able to get paid," Chiu said.
EDD would not confirm or deny our findings, but in an email response, the agency reiterated a statement it made weeks ago: "One of the ways EDD is stopping this type of fraud is by suspending or canceling high-volume, multiple claims filed using the same address." They added that the agency "is working to minimize any interruption in payments for verified claimants who have the same address as those being used by scammers."
Yet many like Jorjet and Mike Weaver said the documents continue to come. With each batch of mail, EDD puts them, and possibly tens of thousands of others, at greater risk of EDD related mail theft and fraud while the agency continues to funnel taxpayer dollars to fraudsters.
Do you think you may be a victim of identity theft?
Read the important tips at the bottom of this story:
New Law Stops EDD From Mailing SSNs – Following 5-Year CBS13 Investigation
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Report it here: EDD Fraud Reporting Form
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