Bank of America exposed unemployed California workers to fraud and suspended jobless payments after the banking behemoth failed to properly safeguard their benefits accounts, a federal class-action lawsuit claims in the latest twist involving a widening Employment Development Department fraud scandal.

The lawsuit alleges that that financial leviathan, despite being required by its exclusive contract with the EDD to provide secure accounts for the processing of unemployment benefits, didn’t use an array of techniques such as industry-standard chip technology to help ward off fraud against the unemployed workers.

“Bank of America has failed to respond in a timely way to thousands of defrauded customers,” the lawsuit claims. “The bank’s ineffectual response to rampant fraud takes various forms.”

Among the blunders and missteps by the bank, according to the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco:

— failing to answer the customer service phone lines it advises EDD debit cardholders to call to report fraud.

— opening claims and then immediately closing them.

— failing to extend provisional credit to EDD cardholders.

— freezing EDD cardholder accounts without warning or explanation.

“My account was emptied by unauthorized transactions on my Bank of America EDD debit card,” said Jennifer Wick, a San Francisco resident who is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Yick, a real estate agent, said she did all she could to notify Bank of America that she had been defrauded.

“When I tried to report the fraud to the bank, I was repeatedly disconnected, told to call back later, transferred to various departments to no end,” Yick said.

Bank of America was asked by this news organization to comment regarding the situation.

Law firm Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy filed the complaint on behalf of Yick and other jobless workers whose accounts were affected by fraud.

The EDD has halted payments on 1.4 million unemployment insurance accounts while attempts are made to investigate and halt the fraud problems.

“Faced with the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Californians now rely on unemployment insurance and other benefits issued by the state EDD,” the class-action complaint stated. “For unemployed Californians struggling to survive, these EDD benefits provide a lifeline that allows them to pay for basic necessities until they find that next job.”

 

 

 

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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