With the California Unemployment agency allowing more than $30 billion in fraudulent claims during the coronavirus lockdown, and months of ongoing overdue claims payments, the agency is apparently addressing a backlog of claims by reaching out to claimants out of the blue.
A Globe reader contacted us to tell a really odd story dealing with the EDD. He received a phone call about his unemployment claim — from last April 2020.
Out of the blue today I got a call from a pleasant sounding woman from the EDD. She asked if I had filed a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claim last April 15, 2020. She knew I had. I said yes but I gave up trying when no response was forthcoming.
She then explained that there were now funds available (15 months later) and that I needed to resubmit my application online. So, I’m thinking “free money’ and it would be retroactive to December 2020. I know I should stand on principle and refuse the money but I just spent $800 on car repairs so my judgement was clouded a bit.
I go online and have to establish a new account since it’s been more than 12 months. They ask a list of yes/no questions and then you proceed to the next page. Ultimately you get to a page where they claim because of fraud they need to fully and completely verify who you are. This leads to another site which appears to be outside CA government called “ID.me.” I started the process and thought I can see they are being super careful after the $32B in fraudulent claims paid out last year.
We have also heard about the EDD working on old claims, but hadn’t heard they were asking people to start the process all over. Our reader continued:
But then I got to the Biometric Data Authorization page. On the surface it appears like what they are asking for is legitimate and necessary. However, I had to read this section a couple of times before a stark reality set in. They are asking permission to gather, retain and disseminate your personal biometric data to governments, banks, law enforcement and others for a period of up to 7 years. They want a photo of your driver’s license, fingerprints, palm prints, retinal scan and your social security number. I had to stop and think about that as well as why is the EDD making these targeted phone calls to those who didn’t receive any benefits.
Here they are asking for your biometric data in exchange for “free money” and they don’t tell you upfront if you even qualify or how much you’ll get. In the meantime they’ve got your authorization to take and use your personal biometric data.
I stopped right there and decided I don’t want their bribe. The big question for me is the EDD called me so they know who I am. Why would they need to have further verification from ID.me? I think this is a data collection scam.
The Globe attempted to contact the EDD at the number the Globe reader said he was called from, and was unable to ever get through. We always got a recording saying, “We are unable to complete your call at this time. Please try later.”
The Globe also tried to file a public records request following the EDD online form, but as I clicked on the submit button, (five different times) I got nothing but error messages (I had immediate empathy for unemployment filers). So I sent my California Public Records Request to the EDD newsroom via email, asking the EDD for all information about the contract the agency signed with ID.me.
California is home to Silicon Valley, the home of Internet innovation. Yet the State of California can’t seem to use modern technology in any of its agencies to be even moderately efficient at processing unemployment claims, or drivers license renewals.
We will report back when we hear a reply from the EDD.