By Julie Watts

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — In a tweet this weekend, the Employment Development Department announced it was suspending an unspecified number of accounts in an effort to weed out fraud, blindsiding many who say they are actually unemployed and have no way to prove their identity or unemployment.

The EDD suspended unemployment payments on claims it considered  “high risk,” alluding to “more details” in the days ahead, but did not say how or when people will be able to verify their identities and regain access to their benefits.

 

Some received notices from EDD first, promising answers by Wednesday then, Friday. But so far there has been no press release, not even a mention online, as many struggle to survive amid the lockdowns and the EDD backlog continues to grow.

READ ALSO: CBS13 Investigates EDD Backlog: Getting Answers From ID.me

ID.me recently took over identity verification for EDD. Until now, ID.me has only verified new unemployment claims, not continuing or suspended claims. But ID.me CEO Blake Hall told CBS13 that they saw an unexpected 300% increase in verification requests following the EDD tweet on Sunday.

Hall says he doesn’t know if it’s related, but the surge did quadruple the average wait for an ID.me video chat from under 30 minutes to around 2 hours.

There was a similar wait increase when Arizona decided to re-screen all of that state’s claimants last month.

“Arizona dropped like a quarter of a million applicants and we had several states go live,” Hall said. “But we’ve now since brought our wait times down.”

Arizona’s increase coincided with a series of blocked cyber attacks on ID.me. Hall says they’ve since increased staffing.

ID.me does expect to start verifying some of the newly suspended EDD accounts. But EDD hasn’t even told ID.me how many accounts will need to be re-verified or when that process will officially begin.

Meanwhile, the EDD backlog continues to grow, though Hall believes many backlogged claims are fraudulent. He says they’ve blocked nearly 20,000 fraudulent claims since New Year’s day alone.

The EDD tells CBS13 that the sudden suspensions are an effort “to avoid paying out the new $300 federal Pandemic Compensation on fraudulent claims.”

Adding to the confusion, they say this is different from the Bank of America fraud investigations related to frozen debit cards.

If your funds are frozen and you don’t get a verification request from EDD, you may need to deal directly with Bank of America.

Julie Watts