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DENVER -- The Contact Denver7 inbox has been flooded for months with messages from viewers who believe they are a victim of fraud involving unemployment claims and the U.S. Bank ReliaCards being used to distribute those funds.
Contact Denver7 previously reported on a fraud scheme that is plaguing the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. People often find out they've been victimized when they received a U.S. Bank ReliaCard in the mail, even though they never filed an unemployment claim.
Now, it seems like an attempt to crack down on fraud is preventing unemployed Coloradans from accessing their unemployment benefits. Contact Denver7 has received several tips from viewers who say their cards have been frozen leaving them unable to access the funds.
"I went to use the card and it was declined. I called the number on the back of the card and the woman told me there had been a block or a restriction placed on my card because of the amount of fraud that’s been going on," said Angela Cantwell.
Cantwell has worked as a chef for most of her life and has been laid off twice this year. The first time she filed for unemployment was back in the spring, and she used a U.S. Bank ReliaCard to receive those benefits. Cantwell said it worked great, so she was planning to use the card again when she filed for unemployment in late November.
"So I reopened my account for the unemployment and that’s when all of the issues started to happen with this card," said Cantwell.
After her card was declined, she was able to reach several customer service representatives at U.S. Bank ReliaCard who told her how to verify her identity. Cantwell has made several attempts at proving it is in fact her and that she is unemployed — but nothing has worked.
She has been trying to reactivate the card and access her funds for nearly three weeks now. Cantwell said she was instructed to submit a photo of her driver's license and a selfie. She's submitted the information multiple times, including a copy of her passport and Social Security card in case anyone had doubts about her identity.
"When I called to sort of check the status of what’s going on, they can’t really give me any information on why the hold on my card hasn’t been released," said Cantwell. "They said they couldn’t verify my identity, which is kind of weird."
Contact Denver7 has reached out to U.S. Bank ReliaCard and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to see if they can sort out this issue out for Cantwell. Until the problem is resolved, there is more than $400 on her card that she is unable to access.
"It is very stressful and it’s just frustrating because no one that I’ve been able to get a hold of on the phone can give me any answers," said Cantwell.
If you have received a U.S. Bank ReliaCard but did not apply for unemployment benefits, officials are advising you to destroy that card and file a report on the ReliaCard website. You should also notify the state unemployment agency that paid the benefits of potential fraud and take precautions to mitigate identity theft. Here's the link where you can report potential fraud in Colorado.