The Personal Information Of Some Florida Unemployment Applicants Just Leaked

Identity theft

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By Giselle Balido

May 26, 2020

Applicants are required to provide sensitive information such as their Social Security number, and other pertinent personal information when filing for benefits.

The more than 1.5 million jobless Floridians who have filed for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus pandemic hit the Sunshine State have had to face a number of frustrating setbacks caused by the state’s understaffed agency and glitch-ridden $77 million CONNECT online application system. And the problems keep piling on.

On Thursday the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) revealed that a data breach has exposed personal information about nearly 100 people applying for unemployment compensation. All applicants are required to provide sensitive information, such as their Social Security number, address, and other pertinent personal information when filing for benefits.

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A DEO spokeswoman said the department has notified everyone who was part of the data security incident, and that the issue was addressed within one hour of becoming aware of the problem. She added that due to “an abundance of caution,” the department is making available identity protection services at no charge to the 98 affected individuals. They have also been advised to report any suspicious or unauthorized activity on their financial accounts.

At this time, the DEO has not received any reports of malicious activity.

Expressing Doubt

But this comes on top of a myriad of ever-growing glitches and setbacks which have prevented thousands of qualified Floridians from applying for their benefits or kept them waiting weeks to receive their checks. So not everyone is satisfied with the DEO’s explanation and apparent quick resolution of the problem. 

State Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orlando, sent a list of questions to the DEO demanding to know how the breach occurred as well as the extent of the problem, and expressing doubt that the issue has been resolved.

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“How many Floridians have been impacted by this ‘breach?’ How can Floridians have confidence that the issue was resolved ‘within one hour? What assurances do Floridians have that the damage to their information was limited and who will be providing the identity theft monitoring? How will that be coordinated?” she wrote.  

Stewart also demanded to know what steps are being taken to ensure that the information from all unemployment applications is no longer in danger. “Given the agency’s track record with processing unemployment applications, I’m sure you will understand the great concern I have,” she wrote.

An Ongoing Headache for the Jobless

The breach is the latest issue with the state’s chaotic, error-prone unemployment system. Despite repeated efforts to fix the problem, including making a switch to paper applications and spending nearly $120 million to develop another website, the issues continue to plague the system.

But during a press conference held in Tallahassee earlier in the month, Gov. DeSantis said that the fault lies not in the system, but on some of the applicants. According to Trump’s ally, Floridians who have been unable to receive either state or federal benefits may be to blame for their troubles, because they did not fill out their applications correctly.


CATEGORIES: Florida | Jobs | Local | Safety


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