TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two Pinellas County social security recipients claim crooks stole their benefits and went on a spending spree.
They join a growing number of others across the country who complain their Direct Express MasterCard, the only way they collect social security or veteran benefits, was used by crooks.
“The answer that I got is, ‘there’s too many discrepancies so we’re not going to return that money,'” said Mary Dykstra.
Dykstra says she’s trying to help her mother, after thousands went missing from her debit card. She logged in to her mother’s account to find strange charges from all over the country.
“DoorDash, GoPuff, Lyft – that was in San Francisco,” she said. “There’s $106 at a KFC.”
Dykstra’s account also shows a charge for more than $1,800 for an upcoming outside hard rock concert in Miami.
“My mother is sitting upstairs in a wheelchair,” Dykstra noted.
For 4.5 million Americans, the Direct Express MasterCard is their only way to access their social security and veteran benefits. The government no longer issues paper checks and distributes benefits through direct deposit or the Direct Express MasterCard. For those without a bank account, the card is the only option.
Comerica Bank, which has the government contract to operate the card, did not return calls from Better Call Behnken. A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said he would look into these claims. Media reports from across the country tell of similar horror stories, and some federal legislators have launched inquiries.
Meanwhile, Wayne Hidalgo, also of Pinellas County, says he’s fighting thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges too.
“I haven’t been able to sleep and eat. I just keep getting ripped off constantly by these scam artists,” Hidalgo said.
Even though the charges he disputes were for things like restaurants in numerous American cities and video games, he has letters from Comerica that say their “thorough investigation” found the charges were valid.
The Social Security Administration, however, has warned of crooks targeting Direct Express debit cards. In some cases, crooks trick the card holder into giving them personal information about the card or the information could be obtained in a data breach, consumer advocates have warned.
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