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Polk man raises concerns over DEO security after reporting stolen unemployment benefits

Florida Unemployment

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Polk county man claims someone fraudulently changed the banking information on his unemployment account, rerouting more than $3,000 of his unemployment benefits.

It may seem farfetched but a former DEO customer service agent tells 8 On Your Side it’s as unlikely as you would think.

When Rob Nobrega’s direct deposits suddenly stopped a few weeks ago, he was mad but not surprised. After all, he had seen countless stories about the state failing to pay people in a timely manner.

But his benefits were paid out all along…just to the wrong person.

“Someone went into my account, changed all my banking information, put theirs in, and stole $3,190,” Nobrega told 8 On Your Side.

Five weeks and 40 phone calls to the DEO later, Nobrega says an agent finally figured it out. They switched the direct deposit information back to Nobrega’s bank account and reported the fraud.

However, the agent told Nogrega they didn’t have a way to trace back to whoever made the change.

“I’m about 99 percent sure that iwas somebody in the DEO that did this,” Nobrega said.

Reggie Ellison is one of the thousands of temporary call center agents brought on to support the overwhelmed agency.

“There’s really nothing stopping them from doing that,” Ellison told 8 On Your Side.

While Ellison is no longer doing DEO customer service and had not heard of Nobrega’s situation, he says he’s not surprised because people in his position could easily access claimants’ banking information.

“The access that was given to us was doing very hastily and without adequate training,” he said.

Ellison says he was subjected to a background check before getting hired on but can’t speak to how extensive it was and it that was the case for everyone.

Nobrega isn’t just worried about how to pay his bills without his benefits. He also fears that more of his private information may have been left up for grabs.

“These are simple security measures that they should have put in place,” he said.

As of this writing, DEO had not returned our request for comment.

Feeling failed by the unemployment system? 8 On Your Side is putting together a list of names of people waiting for their benefits to send to Gov. DeSantis and the DEO.

If you have been waiting for 30 days or more on unemployment benefits, please fill out this Google form. 8 On Your Side’s Victoria Price will be delivering it to the governor.

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