Christina Paul says she hasn’t received unemployment benefits for four weeks, and a Department of Employment Services employee told her to seek out a homeless shelter.
WASHINGTON — A mother collecting unemployment benefits says she was left without weekly payments for four weeks after a breach in her DC Department of Employment Services (NO) account.
“I haven’t had any money to pay utilities, to pay rent. I have a number of medical issues and I can’t even get my prescriptions,” said Christina Paul, who claims to have seen his bank account reach 37 cents in the past weeks.
“My daughter and I have limited our food intake to one packet of ramen per day or one cup of cooked rice per day,” Paul told WUSA9.
Christina Paul says she first noticed something was wrong when she couldn’t access her account on June 8. After contacting the DC agency, they informed her that her payment method had been changed from debit card to direct deposit, and her email had been changed.
Since June, Paul says her account has been changed at least five times with new bank accounts and emails that she recognizes. She reported the incident to DC police, but over the past month has not received any payment, leaving her with $16,000.
Paul claims that DOES representatives told him that the agency’s system had been breached: “If it happened and they tell me very casually, it’s happened to all kinds of people, and you don’t you didn’t even tell us.”
The mother says the agency also told her that her funds could not be distributed until the office collected the money.
“She told me point blank, go to a homeless shelter, and I said, well, that’s not helping us with the money. We’re being kicked out because we can’t pay.
Paul’s teenage daughter, Brianna Lattanzio, says she struggled to see her mother deal with the case daily and made little progress in getting her money back. “She’s sick, she’s older, like she shouldn’t have to go through this. She should be able to have a home,” Lattanzio said.
But DC’s Department of Employment Services denies the security issue is due to a potential hack. In a statement to WUSA, a spokesperson for the agency said:
“Fraud prevention remains our top priority as unemployment insurance and other types of fraud attempts have increased across the country. The district’s unemployment insurance system has not been hacked, and well that we have shared our safeguards to protect workers and prevent fraud, fraudsters continue to commit criminal acts.”
DOES says they continue to work aggressively to minimize cybercriminals’ chances of success and to mitigate risk. They ask anyone who thinks their funds were wrongly issued in their name to contact their office at 1.877.FRAUD.60 (1.877.372.8360).