What to do if your bank freezes your account because of unemployment impostor fraud

The unemployment impostor fraud investigation at the state Employment Security Department is producing new problems for innocent people whose information was stolen by crooks.
Their banks are freezing their personal accounts.
Deborah Rosenfelt said it was bad enough to discover that criminals had been cashing in on four weeks of unemployment benefits using her husband's identity. But the punch in the gut came from the bank where they've held accounts for 25 years.
"I felt like a criminal," Rosenfelt said. "I was devastated."
Rosenfelt said if she and her family didn't have other banking options they would have had a major financial mess on their hands recently when their bank suddenly froze their accounts.
"It's my money," Rosenfelt said. "You know? We've worked hard for that money. And they're holding it. And we don't know why."
Rosenfelt's husband discovered criminals had been collecting unemployment benefits in his name while he was gainfully employed.
"We got a letter from Unemployment (ESD) saying they were considering his case- for his unemployment case, and he's kinda going- but I work," Rosenfelt said.
Heer husband contacted ESD and reported the impostor fraud right away. Shortly after that, the family's accounts were frozen, cutting them off from their own money.
"They closed all accounts that were associated with our family, so our checking account, our savings account, and our teenager's high school savings account checking account type of thing," Rosenfelt said.
"They put a hold on every single penny I had to my name through them," said 18-year-old Evan. "And I didn't do anything. Neither did my parents."
"I mean, my husband missed a day of work," Rosenfelt said. "He had to take a vacation day to deal with this."
Rosenfelt said employees at Chase told the family the state ordered the bank to freeze the accounts.
Here's what ESD Commissioner Suzie Levine said when asked about the issue during her June 18 media briefing:
"When someone reports impostor fraud in their name we take a number of steps to stop the fraud and avoid continuing to pay fraudulent claims," Levine said. "As a part of stopping the funds from going out, we notify banking partners who then take action. I'm not going to provide a road map for criminals beyond that."
Rosenfelt said Chase refused to release their funds even after the family provided email documentation from ESD confirming that the Rosenfelts were not at fault and were not liable for the funds collected fraudulently in their name.
"You know, they just dropped us like a hot potato and that really makes me mad," Rosenfelt said. "I feel like my bank didn't have my back, for starters. They just terminated our account and said, get out. Pretty much they fired us. I'm worried that, people who don't have a backup account, what are they going to do when their money is frozen? And they're going to "mail us a check" and they won't tell us how long that will be."
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After 25 years at one bank branch, Rosenfelt said they eventually got their money- and are taking their business somewhere else.
The Employment Security Department said it will work with customers to help clear up situations like this, so if you're having this problem, or your account is frozen in the future because of the ESD fraud investigation email the details of your situation to the KOMO Problem Solvers: problemsolvers@komonews.com with the subject line ESD Fraud Bank Account Freeze or leave a brief voice message including your name and phone number on the Problem Solver Tip Line: 206-404-8477.
KOMO News will forward your complaint to ESD.
KOMO News contacted Chase about their account freeze policy as it pertains to the ESD fraud investigation. Since privacy laws prohibit discussing customer accounts with outside parties, Chase responded with a short statement.
"We’ve received requests from the State of Washington related to the unemployment situation and we’re working with the state and law enforcement to address this issue.”
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