Flagged Unemployment Assistance Debit Cards Leave Claimants Waiting To Access Funds


Monday, June 14th 2021, 7:51 pm
By: Augusta McDonnell


OKLAHOMA CITY -

Hundreds of people were stuck in line Monday at unemployment offices in Oklahoma City.

This comes after about 20 percent of Way2Go cash assistance debits cards were flagged for fraud, according to a statement from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. 

The flagged accounts were frozen Friday as part of a security screen for suspicious activity. 

Some people went all weekend with no access to any funding. 

“We were actually in shock. My husband and I went though a drive through to actually pay for our dinner, and when we got to the window, the cashier told me our card had been declined,” said Wente Shirley, a cash assistance claimant. 

Shirley said she checked her account later, and it had been flagged for fraud. 

“I knew everybody would be down here today,” she said. 

She’s not the only person caught off-guard over the weekend. 

“I ate [a] burger and fries, and when I went to pay for it, I swiped my card and they said my card had a fraudulent warning on it,” said Deborah Dandine, who uses a Way2Go card. 

She said the restaurant called the police. 

“I had to talk my way out of going to jail because I didn’t have another form to pay for the burger and fries,” she said. 

Dandine said the phone wait times were hours long, so she came to stand in line. 

The Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission said in a tweet Monday morning that ‘the vast majority of cards that have been suspended have been connected to fraudulent actors.’ 

However, the commission did admit that some legitimate unemployment benefit accounts were caught in the crossfire. 

“You know, people need to pay their bills, their livelihood. They need to feed their kids, so I’m just here to make sure that I’m good,” said Davontae Jenkins, who was waiting in line at the Lincoln Blvd. unemployment office. 

In a statement, OESC executive director Shelley Zumwalt said “Unemployment fraud is a real issue and OESC must take action to protect state funds as well as take action on accounts that show suspicious activity.”

She said it will take one to three business days for cash assistance accounts to be reactivated once a person has proven their identity and resolves the fraud alert. 

The employment securities commission will not release an exact number of debit accounts that were affected.

In a statement, the commission said it would not clarify what types of spending or activity qualifies as fraudulent to protect the fraud investigation process.

They said it was ‘less than 20 percent’ of cash assistance cards.