Cyberthieves reroute single mom’s unemployment benefits to Illinois bank account

DEO, News 6 work to get stolen funds reissued

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Linsie Kirsh, a single mom from Clearwater, is the latest victim of a high-tech bank switch that diverted $1,200 in unemployment benefits to a different bank account with the help of the victim’s stolen identity.

The theft occurred on Aug. 19 just weeks before the Department of Economic Opportunity launched a multi-authentication protocol to stop imposters from infiltrating state unemployment accounts.

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Kirsh said a DEO notice was the start of the chase for her stolen benefits.

“I received an email that my payment method had been changed,“ the mother of two told News 6. “My routing number changed, the name of the bank completely changed and the next day, the deposit went to that fraudulent bank account.”

DEO records confirm the funds were wired to an account with BMO Harris Bank, a U.S. subsidiary of Canada’s Bank of Montreal.

Federal investigators say the Illinois-based bank is one of at least a dozen used by unemployment imposters since the demand for unemployment assistance began in March of 2020.

Kirsh said she had been trying for weeks to get the DEO’s fraud division to help her reclaim the money.

“It’s extremely difficult,” Kirsh said as she fought back tears. “You’re the only one that actually responded one and have gotten any response to get this moving.”

An investigator with the DEO provided Kirsh with an affidavit to file a fraud report and change her bank account to the original she designated last November.

She said it was a “huge relief” to know someone was out there who would listen and actually get results.

On Wednesday, Kirsh was contacted for additional information to confirm her identity, the final step in getting that $1,200 dollars deposited in her bank account.

“You have gotten results and I cannot thank you enough for my family and I,“ she said.

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

To report unemployment fraud, visit 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.