Thieves change bank account information to steal weeks of unemployment benefits

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Posted at 9:08 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 22:08:59-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee officials say unemployment insurance fraud “remains an issue across the country and Tennessee is not immune.”

It’s estimated that more than $36 billion was stolen from out-of-work Americans around the country. However, the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development (TDLWD) tells us they’ve seen “a relatively low percentage of potentially fraudulent claims.”

Lesley Albert of Nashville is waiting for her fraud dispute to be resolved. This is the second time she’s had her account compromised since this past summer.

She discovered a letter in the mail indicating the state of Indiana received her unemployment claim. They requested she contact state officials in Tennessee before moving forward.

The claim was halted on Indiana’s end, but it still meant someone had enough of Lesley’s information to file claims.

“By September I get a call from the state (TN) stating I understand you want to update your banking information,” Lesley said.

Lesley says she explained to the person on the other line that something was wrong because the last time she changed her bank information was in February.

In the same phone call, the person on the line agreed to send a redetermination letter with an amount for how much Lesley is now owed given the mix-up.

Lesley has yet to get the letter and in her waiting, she discovered at least two weeks' worth of benefits were sent to accounts she didn’t recognize.

“This whole time I’m telling her, I know I’m not alone,” Lesley said.

Melissa was saying the same thing just across Davidson County. She asked we only use her first name, but Melissa says at the beginning of the year is when she noticed issues with her unemployment claim.

When she finally managed to speak to a live person through the TDLWD, she realized her information had been changed. Everything from her email to her security question had been altered.

“For someone to go out and breach my information and be able to do that through a government website, I just don’t understand it,” Melissa said.

Last week, Melissa was told a $1,900 payment was drafted and would soon make it into her account. The only problem is the money was headed to a Wells Fargo account. Melissa doesn’t have a Wells Fargo account.

“When I went in to change it, it would not let me because I would have to have the prior bank account information,” Melissa said.

What that meant is whoever changed Melissa’s bank information, most likely knew enough about her bank to make the change. Melissa says she’s owed well over $2,000.

To protect the integrity of their systems, state officials say they can’t go into detail about any one person’s claim. They do say however they’re still investigating Lesley’s claim.

“The state continues to actively monitor potential fraud and utilizes both front-end and back-office fraud prevention measures, as well as coordinates with other states to stay informed about emerging fraudulent practices.”

If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, you can send details about the activity to the state’s Department’s Benefit Payment Control Unit at