Fort Bend County man believes unemployment benefits stolen by hackers

FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- A Fort Bend County man believes his unemployment benefits were stolen by hackers, and now he wants to warn others to prevent more victims.

Roger Gaona, a truck driver, was laid off in May because of the pandemic. He started receiving benefits on May 22 and expected his most recent payment of $1,700 on Tuesday.

"I woke up and there was nothing there. I checked again and still nothing. I couldn't believe it," said Gaona, who recently signed a new apartment lease and is expecting a baby with his fiancée.

He said he then went to the payment option and saw bank, routing and account information that was not his. He thinks somehow someone changed it and stole the money.

"All I can think is hackers. There's identity theft by computer and I believe that's what happened," he said.

Gaona reported the apparent fraud to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), which has opened an investigation. Historically, when disaster unemployment insurance is made available, fraud increases, according to TWC spokesman Francisco Gamez.

"Since January 2020, we have identified, confirmed and logged 738 identity theft fraudulent claims and over 68 percent occurred since April," Gamez told ABC13.

Most are scams by email or phone asking for a credit card number, payment to process a claim or more than 4 digits of bank account and routing numbers. A specialist would never request this information, Gamez said.

Gaona said a TWC investigator partially tracked the account that got the money to a computer located in New York. He recommends that people check their account information before submitting a payment request.

"Double-check that information matches your bank information. Make sure everything matches before you make the request," he advised.

He still needs the $1,700.

To report unemployment fraud and program abuse, call the TWC Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-3642.

SEE RELATED STORY: Texas to reinstate work-search requirement for unemployment benefits

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