Money

Here’s how you can protect yourself from fraud

California’s Employment Development Department fraud ran rampant during the pandemic in 2020 and early 2021. Criminals were known to not only falsely apply for and receive EDD benefits, but also steal information and money from unemployed California residents who desperately needed the cash.One of the most common ways criminals were able to take this information from other EDD debit cards was through a technology that has been around for quite some time: card skimmers.Card skimmers are normally used at places like gas stations, which see several customers over short periods of time.| MORE | See how card skimmers work in the video aboveDetectives from the Riverside Police Department explained to KCRA 3 that skimmers are basically card readers that capture magnetic strip data off the card.”It’s that quick. So 10 seconds later, another car pulls up, not even noticing anything,” Detective Katie Mendonza said. She added that these thieves specifically targeted EDD cards because there was less security for them than regular debit cards. They are also able to pull out significantly more money at a time.”With a normal bank card, if you were to go to your bank, like I’m with a credit union, I could pull about 300 $400 out at a time. These EDD cards you could pull out $1,000 At a time,” she said.Tips for how to protect yourselfBanks across the country provide similar advice on how to best prevent fraud and keep your accounts and money safe.Before you put your card in at gas stations — where card skimmers are most common — make sure the gas pump panel shows no signs of tampering. Then take a good look at the card reader itself, making sure it looks normal. If something seems off, wiggle the card reader and if it moves, let the attendant know.When possible, run debit cards as credit so you don’t have to put in a PIN. If this can’t be avoided, cover your PIN with your hand so possible cameras nearby can’t see what numbers are being typed in.Never leave your credit or debit card out of sight either, and only take it out when you’re about to use it.As always, customers are encouraged to create the strongest passwords possible, and never use the same password for anything else.It’s also important for customers to keep contact information up to date, so your bank can reach you immediately if there’s any suspicious activity on your accounts.Customers should also keep any electronics like phones, tablets and computers up to date with the latest software updates to help protect against any vulnerabilities.In today’s world, you should be careful to not overshare on social media. Information like your birthdate, employer or family members can be used to access your accounts. Parents are encouraged talk to their children about internet safety, and what they can and can’t share online. Also, familiarize yourself with the red flags that accompany scams. Be wary of emails, text messages, phone calls and letters from people you do not know. More importantly, never send money — whether it be cash, check or gift cards — to strangers or anyone pressuring you to send funds.KCRA 3’s documentary Easy Money: Fraud, Fortune and Failures explores the wave of problems created by the failures of the EDD and speaks with frustrated unemployment applicants, legislators, detectives and business owners who were impacted.You can watch the special’s debut after the NFL game on Sunday, Dec. 12, on KCRA 3 or online at KCRA.com/easymoney.Easy Money Related ContentHere’s a timeline of unprecedented fraud at the EDDEDD admitted to paying out $20 billion in fraud. Here’s what you could buy with that money

California’s Employment Development Department fraud ran rampant during the pandemic in 2020 and early 2021. Criminals were known to not only falsely apply for and receive EDD benefits, but also steal information and money from unemployed California residents who desperately needed the cash.

One of the most common ways criminals were able to take this information from other EDD debit cards was through a technology that has been around for quite some time: card skimmers.

Card skimmers are normally used at places like gas stations, which see several customers over short periods of time.

| MORE | See how card skimmers work in the video above

Detectives from the Riverside Police Department explained to KCRA 3 that skimmers are basically card readers that capture magnetic strip data off the card.

“It’s that quick. So 10 seconds later, another car pulls up, not even noticing anything,” Detective Katie Mendonza said.

She added that these thieves specifically targeted EDD cards because there was less security for them than regular debit cards. They are also able to pull out significantly more money at a time.

“With a normal bank card, if you were to go to your bank, like I’m with a credit union, I could pull about 300 $400 out at a time. These EDD cards you could pull out $1,000 At a time,” she said.

Tips for how to protect yourself

Banks across the country provide similar advice on how to best prevent fraud and keep your accounts and money safe.

Before you put your card in at gas stations — where card skimmers are most common — make sure the gas pump panel shows no signs of tampering. Then take a good look at the card reader itself, making sure it looks normal. If something seems off, wiggle the card reader and if it moves, let the attendant know.

When possible, run debit cards as credit so you don’t have to put in a PIN. If this can’t be avoided, cover your PIN with your hand so possible cameras nearby can’t see what numbers are being typed in.

Never leave your credit or debit card out of sight either, and only take it out when you’re about to use it.

As always, customers are encouraged to create the strongest passwords possible, and never use the same password for anything else.

It’s also important for customers to keep contact information up to date, so your bank can reach you immediately if there’s any suspicious activity on your accounts.

Customers should also keep any electronics like phones, tablets and computers up to date with the latest software updates to help protect against any vulnerabilities.

In today’s world, you should be careful to not overshare on social media. Information like your birthdate, employer or family members can be used to access your accounts. Parents are encouraged talk to their children about internet safety, and what they can and can’t share online.

Also, familiarize yourself with the red flags that accompany scams. Be wary of emails, text messages, phone calls and letters from people you do not know. More importantly, never send money — whether it be cash, check or gift cards — to strangers or anyone pressuring you to send funds.


KCRA 3’s documentary Easy Money: Fraud, Fortune and Failures explores the wave of problems created by the failures of the EDD and speaks with frustrated unemployment applicants, legislators, detectives and business owners who were impacted.

You can watch the special’s debut after the NFL game on Sunday, Dec. 12, on KCRA 3 or online at KCRA.com/easymoney.

Easy Money Related Content


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