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One Woman's EDD Debit Card Account Was Drained of $18K

Does it sound like a problem of the pandemic? Fraud is still happening, two years later.

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During the pandemic, the I-Team was flooded with complaints about Bank of America EDD debit card accounts - consumers say they’d unknowingly been drained, and the bank did nothing to help. Two years later, it’s still a problem. And federal regulators have issues with the bank, too; they recently slammed Bank of America with hefty fines.

Bernadette Abbruzze owns an automotive manufacturing business. For the past 28 years it’s been her pride and joy. But when COVID hit, her business tanked. 

“My sales went to zero. Nobody was buying chemicals. Everybody was afraid they were going to die from this virus. The last thing somebody was going to do is get an oil change in their car,” said Abbruzze. 

Abbruzze says she paid her employees for months using money out of her own pocket. So she was relieved when she learned that she qualified for unemployment benefits. 

But when Abbruzze went to an ATM earlier this spring, her Bank of America EDD account had been wiped out. 

“You have no money. And I said there’s got to be a mistake,” she said.

The amount: $18,000 - gone! Abbruzzi filed a complaint with Bank of America but says the bank denied it.

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“Case closed. I’m like, ‘How? Where do I go now? What do I do?’ So I figured I just have to write it off,” she said.

It’s a story the I-Team heard over and over again earlier in the pandemic – consumers like Amanda Bailey and Patricia Moynihan said the money in their Bank of America debit card accounts had disappeared.

“The account was totally empty. I couldn’t even get $30 out of it,” said Bailey.

“The point of that money is to keep me going until I’m on my feet again,” said Moynihan.

Security expert Jim Stickley told the I-Team back then that the debit cards were likely getting hacked, or skimmed. It’s when thieves attach a device to an ATM and steal the data from your card when you insert it. 

“When you put it into a machine, they can put a skimmer in there, or if you give it to somebody at a restaurant, and they walk away with that card, they can skim the card, or record the data off the magnetic stripe, and make their own card,” said Stickley.

Every time the I-Team has reached out to Bank of America with a fraud case, it has refunded consumers. It did the same for Abbruzze.

In a statement to the I-Team, the bank said: “When a client disagrees with our initial review, we encourage the client to ask for reconsideration and provide any additional information that may be available.”

But federal regulators have a beef with the bank, too. They recently fined it $225 million for how it handled fraud on EDD accounts during the pandemic.

In a statement, Bank of America said; “This action arose despite the government’s own acknowledgement that the unemployment program expansion during the pandemic created unprecedented criminal activity.” It also said the bank “enabled the government to successfully issue more than $250 billion dollars in pandemic unemployment benefits to more than 14 million people.” 

Abbruzze is simply happy the $18,000 is back in her account. 

“You know what, I feel like I hit the lotto,” she said. 

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