TULSA, Okla. — Although unemployment numbers are declining after reaching record highs because of the pandemic, one Tulsa woman said her struggle to rely on the benefits process continues.
Aerial Stafford said she's been dealing with suspected fraud on her government-issued Conduent debit card.
"I'm at a standstill," Stafford said. "I'm not working. I'm on unemployment."
Like thousands of Oklahomans, Stafford is struggling to find work amid the pandemic.
"I have an occupational license with the state of Oklahoma, and I'm waiting to have that renewed," she said.
Stafford adds accepting her "new normal" is anything but easy.
"The bills haven't stopped, and I'm still paying bills." She said. "I'm still trying to pursue other endeavors. Basically, everything is on hold."
For the last six months, she's relied on her unemployment benefits, using her government-issued debit card distributed by Conduent.
"That's my livelihood," Stafford said. "That is how I was paying bills, and that is how I feed my family."
Her sense of reliability hit a snag Sept. 25 when she noticed a discrepancy on her billing showing two transactions to the country of Trinidad. She had one for $240 and another for $340.
She immediately reached out to Conduent.
"I let them know that I would never have purchased anything online or overseas international," Stafford told 2 Works for You.
She said she tried to dispute the charge only to see two more bizarre transactions. One of those was for over $1,200.
In the end, the suspected fraud totaled more than $3,000. Stafford filed a police report while Conduent investigated the claim placing provisional money back on her card.
After investigating, Conduent sent Stafford a letter stating, "We cannot confirm fraud occurred. Therefore, we are respectfully denying your claim."
She said her replaced funds were taken back.
“I felt like I was being victimized twice," Stafford said.
The 2 Works for You Problem Solvers reached out to Conduent to see why someone denied Stafford's claims.
The company sent this statement:
"We are proud to be part of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission's (OESC) team that is delivering benefits to Oklahoma citizens. We have also continued to work collaboratively with OESC to examine any incidents of fraud, whether they involve our portion of the process or before we become involved, and implement additional security measures to further protect benefits recipients. We take suspected incidents of fraud very seriously, and we closely investigate each one to restore funds or access to funds to rightful recipients as quickly as possible. Many states have reported increases in fraud related to unemployment insurance programs. We encourage account holders to safeguard their personal data and change passwords regularly, especially given recent warnings by the federal government about international fraud rings targeting unemployment insurance benefits in many states across the country. We understand the importance of Conduent's role in supporting the state's residents, and we will continue to partner closely with OESC to deliver these critical services at a time of great need."
Days later, Stafford said her issue was resolved and said she got her $3,000 reimbursed.
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