Editor's note: Contact7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, or have a story idea for our investigative team to pursue, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (720) 462-7777. Find more Contact7 stories here.
DENVER -- When Tim Patton opened his mail he was surprised to see a letter from U.S. Bank and a ReliaCard with his name on it. The cards are being used to distribute unemployment benefits but Patton isn't unemployed, he's been retired for 12 years.
"I said, 'OK, why did I get this card?'" said Patton.
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is tracking a new fraud scheme involving unemployment claims that are filed using another person's identity. If you received a ReliaCard in the mail and have not filed for unemployment, you could be a victim.
"So the fraudsters are preying on people who have potentially had their identity stolen in recent years, people who were victim to one of the big security breaches, so they’re taking that identity, filing a fraudulent claim and then the debit card is actually getting sent to the victim's home because that is the home address associated with the information," said Cher Haavind, a spokesperson for CDLE.
The state has seen a spike in fraudulent activity related to unemployment benefits over the past several weeks. Haavind explained that people are taking advantage of the pandemic unemployment program that provides federal benefits for self-employed workers.
If you receive a card in the mail and did not request one, you should deactivate it immediately. Patton tried to call U.S. Bank ReliaCard but he could not get through to cancel the card.
"I called several phone numbers that I found on the internet for Reliacard, all of those have a hold on the thing and I would hold for two or three hours," said Patton.
CDLE has updated its website to include several steps people can take to protect their identity if they are a victim of this fraud scheme. Additional information can be found here.
"I just think that something needs to be done to where people who get it incorrectly can cancel without going through too much trouble," said Patton.
Contact7 reached out to ReliaCard to ask if there's a better way for people to deactivate cards or report potential fraud but a spokesperson has not responded to that specific request.