Furloughed Hilton employee says his unemployment benefits were stolen by hackers

Experts say COVID-19 has created opportunities for hackers to flourish

Domestic and international hackers have targeted unemployment accounts from Florida to Massachusetts, redirecting funds to bank accounts changed without the knowledge of the account holder.

31-year-old Robert Nobrega Jr., a furloughed staffer with Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Hotel, discovered his Department of Economic Opportunity account was changed to have funds issued to a new bank account without his knowledge.

“Somebody went into my account on June 9 and changed the information,” Nobrega told News 6. ”Why didn’t the DEO tell me someone had changed my account? That’s on them not on me!”

The DEO delays and interrupted unemployment payments have been blamed on sheer volume and user error.

In May Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters “nine times out of ten the applications are incomplete.”

Nobrega was furloughed on March 30 and his checks, both state and federal, were being deposited without issue.

Then he noticed a lag of five weeks without a check and contacted DEO staffers through an email blitz for help.

One employee called him back and told him the account had been altered.

The DEO was able to track the deposit to the phantom account and the funds were frozen.

Chris Hadnagy, CEO of Social-Engineer.com told News 6 COVID-19 has created a platform for high tech thieves to flourish.

“Hackers are looking at this as a pay day,” Hadnagy said Monday. ”A lot of times they’re just waiting for a couple of checks, taking the money and running.”

Hadnagy told News 6 anyone with an active DEO account should make sure the account has not been tampered with.

“People need to be constantly checking their accounts,” he said. “Sadly it’s what you have to do to keep your money safe.”

If you have an unemployment issue, email us at makeendsmeet@wkmg.com.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.