Potential fraud locks 272,000 Florida unemployment accounts

Unemployed officer manager’s account was locked after someone attempted to steal her benefits

Beth Sampson is the first to admit collecting unemployment benefits is not in her DNA and until Tuesday she had no way of collecting $1,700 in back benefits because someone may have attempted to assume her identity and steal her benefits.

Beth Sampson is the first to admit collecting unemployment benefits is not in her DNA and until Tuesday she had no way of collecting $1,700 in back benefits because someone may have attempted to assume her identity and steal her benefits.

“I’m 52 years old,” Sampson said. “I worked 34 years of my life if not more. So I’m definitely not used to this.”

After nine years as the office manager with MB Seafood in Merritt Island, Sampson was forced to leave her job in January after she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.

“… I was in the hospital four times,” she said, “It’s extremely frustrating especially for me in my position, I’ve racked up more than $36,000 in medical bills this year.”

Sampson said she never had an issue collecting benefits from her Department of Economic Opportunity Connect account until she verified her identity with Id.me, the security company hired by Florida’s DEO.

“As of this month I haven’t been able to claim anything,” she said.

But that changed with a 4:30 p.m. call from the DEO Monday afternoon with the message that her DEO account was unlocked and the four weeks of benefits, $1,700, will be issued.

News 6 learned Sampson is one of 271,874 unemployed Floridians who have been locked out because of “potential fraud.”

According to the DEO, another 115,706 accounts are currently in “holding payment” status.

Beth Sampson’s account was verified by ID.me on June 7 by a video referee and on June 28 it was unlocked after News 6 worked with the DEO to review the account.

A spokesperson for the Department of Economic Opportunity tells News 6 there are more than 3 million total issues “pending adjudication.”

State Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orange County) recently met with DEO Director Dane Eagle in Tallahassee. According to Stewart, while more than 727,000 claimants are receiving state unemployment benefits the fraud issue has created a log-jam for people in Orange County and across the state.

“It’s well known that this fraud is happening internationally and other states,” Stewart said. “People’s names are being confiscated when that happens everything gets locked up.”

Stewart said Eagle indicated a new verification system will be introduced on the DEO website soon. The system will implement a drop-down menu so anyone can verify their identification “and get back in line to get their money back.”

DEO Deputy Director of Communications Trip Farmer told News 6 that the agency recommends that claimants and employers utilize the Reemployment Assistance Help Center—an online portal for claimants and employers.

“This online resource continues to be updated with additional features for claimants and employers to notify DEO of instances of Reemployment Assistance fraud or identity theft, Farmer said, it will “provide documentation to DEO, and houses several resourceful materials for claimants or employers who have additional questions. "

If you have an unemployment issue email 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.