Reports of duplicate accounts increasing in Florida

DEO’s high tech partner says social engineering behind bogus accounts

Florida's unemployed running into duplicate accounts. (WKMG), the company hired to verify the identification of Florida unemployment account holders has launched a full-court press to stop cybercriminals employing social engineering to steal the personal information of claimants applying for unemployment assistance.

The company said it has been detecting and blocking unemployment fraud across the country all year, noting that the “scale of criminals attempting to steal government benefits is unprecedented.”

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This past weekend another 15 Florida unemployment claimants reported duplicate accounts after watching the Make Ends Meet investigation Friday., recruited by the Department of Economic Opportunity to combat this and other types of fraud, said “social engineering schemes account for 7.5% - 10%” of the fraudulent claims it tracks.

The company’s investigative team reacted quickly after reviewing evidence of the first four duplicate accounts uncovered by News 6 last week.

Monday a company spokesperson said that three of the four victims had been successfully verified and that a fourth victim, Noah Scott, was working with the company’s escalations team to get the account updated.

Elaneys Suarez, a single mom from Miami Dade County featured on News 6 last week, said she was in a panic when she was unable to access her final weeks of unemployment benefits.

The mother of four said she did not recognize the Yahoo! email address flagged by the team.

“I’m not sure how they did it, " Suarez said, “As far as I know they only changed the email.”

News 6 confirmed no funds were stolen in the four cases we reviewed.

An spokesperson told News 6 it is “identifying and stopping cybercriminals from accessing the individual’s benefits.”

In an email to News 6 Monday, Suarez said ”I was able to claim my benefits, thank you very much!”

The duplicate accounts triggered a security roadblock for Suarez and others who received this alert: “We’re sorry it appears you have already verified your identity on a different account.”

Sixteen more duplicate accounts were reported Monday and presented to that afternoon. While the number is not extraordinary it suggests high-tech thieves are continuing to develop ways to steal unemployment benefits. Investigators are looking at the original email addresses and linking them to the email addresses used in the duplicate accounts.

For more information on social engineering and how you can avoid falling victim to a scam, click here.

If you have a duplicate account issue or another unemployment problem email or text the words “Make Ends Meet” to 407-676-7428

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.