Chicago-area woman can't figure out why California agency approved her for unemployment benefits

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Friday, May 14, 2021
Retired Chicago woman mysteriously approved for CA unemployment
A Chicago-area woman whose identity was stolen is notified that she's been approved for jobless benefits in California -- which she didn't apply for.

ALSIP, Ill. -- Some people have trouble getting their California Employment Development Department, or EDD, benefits, and others are being notified they're getting benefits and don't even understand how.

Janet Pierucci's story started with Best Buy one year ago.

The retired Chicago-area woman received an invoice from a location in San Francisco for $2,300.

The retailer billed her for five iPhones and a payment plan she didn't buy.

She immediately contacted Best Buy's fraud department.

"They told me from what they could gather that my Social Security information was compromised and some other things, and what I needed to do," she said.

She followed Best Buy's advice by freezing her credit and filing a fraud report. Best Buy then zeroed out her account.

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Unfortunately, this year she began receiving text messages from a number she didn't recognize, with various links.

She assumed the texts came from some scammer who wanted to infect her phone with a virus.

"So I deleted probably the first five or six, if not more. And then I finally started to notice that it progressively going on about unemployment," Pierucci told us.

She looked into the texts further and discovered that California's EDD really did send them to her.

Pierucci feared the same thing that happened with Best Buy had happened again: Someone had used her stolen identity to get EDD benefits.

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She went onto EDD's website to file a fraud report. It's been months, but she still hasn't heard back.

Pierucci also tried calling 20 different phone numbers and spent some 50 hours on hold.

"I could not find out specifically if this was a phishing scheme or if I had actually been a victim of more identity theft," said Pierucci.

Pierucci asked ABC 7 Chicago's San Francisco affiliate for help, so they contacted the EDD, which suggested she file a fraud report online -- something she had already done.

"If you can only get a confirmation number and you don't even know," Pierucci said.

All this is symptomatic of a state agency extremely backed up with its caseload. The staff of Assembly member David Chiu said it's taking an average of ten weeks for even them to get a response from the EDD.