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Victims Of Bank Of America EDD Debit Card Fraud Tell Stories Of Fake Charges, Long Waits, Closed Claims

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- KPIX has learned lawmakers plan to call Bank of America on the carpet in January to question it about massive fraud involving unemployment debit cards.

KPIX was the first to report on what appears to be an epidemic of hack attacks on the cards involving fraudsters stealing thousands of dollars in cash from EDD accounts, directly from ATM machines. But we are also hearing about smaller charges for food delivery through Doordash. The dollar amount is much smaller but the frustration just as great.

"I was like what is this charge?" said Martha Galvan. She noticed the unusual $53 dollar charge on her EDD debit card from Doordash in October. The delivery was in San Francisco and Galvan lives in Southern California.

"It was like, okay, this is definitely, obviously not me," said Galvan

The same thing happened to Los Angeles resident Amy Parks.

"At first I was like 'ooh dumplings!'" said Parks.

She also got a Doordash charge for $96.57 at Dumpling Alley in San Francisco. Both women say they expected quick resolution from Bank of America to what seemed to them like obvious fraud.

"I thought it was going to be a quick fix," said Galvan.

But not so.

"I started calling at 9:30 a.m. and I set the phone down on speaker," said Parks.

She says she waited almost three hours to get through. Galvan was on hold for hours too.

"They are just hoping that people give up," said Galvan.

We asked how much the $53 dollars means to her right now. Her response: "That's my Internet. That's lunch for a whole week," said Galvan.

And they're the lucky ones. As we have been reporting, some EDD cards are getting hacked for much more. Meet Benicia resident Rob Thurber.

"I went to pull out a thousand, and it said 'insufficient funds,'" said Thurber.

He says a thousand dollars was withdrawn from his EDD account and it wasn't him. He's got three daughters, his wife is disabled and he's been out of a job since the beginning of the pandemic.

Like everyone else, Thurber says filing a claim was a painful experience.

"I waited on hold for seven hours," said Thurber.

Two days later came the letter from Bank of America in the mail telling him his claim was closed, identical to dozens of others we've seen. Rob appealed. But a month-and-a-half later when we met up with him he was still waiting.

"It's extremely frustrating. It really feels like they don't care," said Thurber.

We asked him if he feels a weight on his shoulder. His response: "Not just on my shoulders but you know kind of on my heart. It makes me sad because I am already struggling with the fact that I am not providing the way that I want to provide for my family," said Thurber.

"I think we're in the early stages of the uncovering of a very serious problem," said Ted Mermin. Mermin Interim Director of the Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice at Berkeley Law and a former California Deputy Attorney General..

He says consumers have protections under California's Unfair Competition Law.

"Under that law individuals can sue and certainly the Attorney General can sue a private entity like a bank, if that bank has engaged in unfair, unlawful or deceptive acts or practices," said Mermin.

In this case, as we have been reporting, unlike all other debit cards, EDD cards don't have security chips so they are more vulnerable to fraud.

"If those cards should have had a chip and that was the standard business practice and they didn't, then they (Bank of America) may well be liable for making people whole," said Mermin.

He says the bank could also be liable under the same Unfair Competition Law for unlawfully denying provisional credit, something that must happen when a bank's fraud investigation lasts more than 10 days. The letters victims are getting state their claim is closed "because we believe the account has been the subject of fraud."

Bank of America told us it investigates every fraud case fully, has increased call center staffing twenty-fold to more than 6,000 and has reduced wait times to an average of 10 minutes.

We were there when Thurber called the bank and got through in a record 7 minutes. But it wasn't a person, just a message machine. Thurber left a message saying in part: "We are getting close to the holidays, I have three little kids, that money is very very important to me so if you could please have somebody call me back as soon as possible."

We gave Thurber's name to Bank of America. The next day he got his thousand dollars back.

As for Galvan and Parks, after days on the phone Bank of America finally reversed their Doordash charges.

"The fact that we have no choice but to go through them for our unemployment and they have such limited options for people that don't have the privilege of time that I do, that is unacceptable," said Parks.

"It's not a big amount of money but it's money that we all need right now. I shouldn't have to be going through all these hoops to deal with that one, it's their responsibility that my account is safe," said Galvan.

We know of at least 19 people out of 120 that we referred to Bank of America that got their money back.

Meanwhile, Doordash told us they've received about a dozen calls from EDD card holders about fraudulent delivery charges. Doordash says if you can't get through to the bank call them instead and they will do their best to help.

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