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Woman says she is facing homelessness after her DC unemployment account was hacked

Christina Paul says she has not received unemployment benefits in four weeks, and a Department of Employment Services employee told her to seek a homeless shelter.

WASHINGTON — A mother on unemployment benefits says she has been left without weekly payments for four weeks after a breach in her D.C. Department of Employment Services (D.O.E.S) account. 

"I have not had money to pay utilities, to pay rent. I have a number of medical issues and I can't even get my prescriptions," Christina Paul said, who claims that she has seen her bank account hit 37 cents in the past weeks. 

"My daughter and I have been limiting our food intake to a pack of ramen a day or a cup of cooked rice a day," Paul said to WUSA9.

Christina Paul says she first noticed something was wrong when she was unable to access her account on June 8.  After contacting the D.C. agency, they informed her that her payment method had been changed from a debit card to a direct deposit, and her email had been changed. 

Since June, Paul says her account has been changed at least five times with new bank accounts and emails she does recognize. She has reported the incident to DC Police, but for the past month, she has not received any payments leaving her out $1,6000. 

Paul claims that representatives from DOES told her that the agency's system had been breached, "If this has happened and they're telling me very nonchalantly, it's happened to all kinds of people, and you didn't even notify us." 

The mother says she was also told by the agency that her funds could not be distributed until the office recuperated the money.

"She point-blank told me, go to a homeless shelter, and I said, well that's not helping us with the money. We are being evicted because we can't pay.  

Paul's teenage daughter, Brianna Lattanzio, says she has struggled seeing her mother deal daily with the case and making little progress to get her money back. "She's sick, she's older, like she shouldn't have to be going through this. She should be able to have a home," Lattanzio said. 

But D.C.'s Department of Employment Services denies that the security issue is due to potential hacking. In a statement to WUSA a spokesperson for the agency said:

"Preventing fraud remains our priority, as unemployment insurance and other types of fraud attempts have been on the rise across the country. The District’s UI system has not been hacked, and while we have shared our safeguards to protect workers and prevent fraud, fraudsters continue to commit criminal acts."

DOES says they continue aggressively work to minimize opportunities for cyber criminals to be successful and to mitigate risks. They are asking anyone who believes their funds have been improperly issued in their name to contact their office at 1.877.FRAUD.60 (1.877.372.8360).

Click here to view a GoFundMe account created by a friend for Paul.

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