Thousands of Florida unemployment accounts blocked by DEO security measure

‘Force reset’ used on 58,000 accounts targeted by cyberthieves

Thousands of Florida unemployment accounts were locked without warning this week in a move to counter a potential data breach that targeted nearly 58,000 Department of Economic Opportunity Connect accounts.

The words “YOUR ACCOUNT HAS REACHED THE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF FAILED LOGIN ATTEMPTS AND HAS BEEN TEMPORARILY LOCKED” greeted thousands of men and women who attempted to request weekly benefits from the DEO on Aug. 4.

Kim Renshaw, a married mother of two from Mount Dora, said she immediately thought of the DEO report that confirmed cyber thieves had targeted thousands of accounts between April and July of this year.

“If I can’t access that money how am I supposed to take care of my family,” Renshaw said Monday. “I believe hackers are trying to get what money they can.”

The DEO strategy was designed to counter thieves trying to hijack the system, according to Emilie Oglesby, the department’s Director of Communications.

“In an abundance of caution, the Department completed a force reset for PIN numbers for the individuals who were impacted by the data breach,” Oglesby said. “These claimants will be prompted to reset their PIN when they try to log-in to CONNECT. Oglesby said claimants have the option to receive an email or answer the 3 security questions they set up when they first created their CONNECT account.

Neal who lost his job with Harris-Lockheed Martin because of COVID-19 related cutbacks said when he logged on to his DEO account it advised him to click “forgot pin.” The aerospace technician asked News 6 not to use his last name for security reasons.

“When I did that it just took me in a loop,” he said. “People started posting numbers (on social media) of their local Career Source centers saying, ‘Call this number they may be able to unlock it over the phone.’”

Both Renshaw and Neal said they never received a DEO message that their accounts were on the potential hacker hit list.

The centers have been inundated with requests to reset PIN codes over the last 72 hours.

News 6 viewers reported they were told the wait to reset accounts at a local center could be 48 hours or more.

Neal said he drove to a Palm Bay Career Source center about an hour from his home and was able to reset his PIN and apply for his weekly benefits “in about 15 minutes.” He said the woman who helped him recommended he use a new PIN and security questions.

If you have an unemployment issue email or text Make Ends Meet to 407-676-7428

For more information on resetting your PIN, click here. If the claimant’s account remains locked, you can notify the Department through the Reemployment Assistance Help Center.

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.