WSAZ Investigates | Fighting Fraud

WSAZ Investigates | Fighting Fraud
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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WILLIAMSON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Millions of Americans rely on Social Security benefits.

One West Virginia mother, Misty Brown, recently found herself in a tough spot after her son’s Social Security benefits were sent to someone else who withdrew more than $1,000 in cash.

“June the 4th I wake up, which is Saturday, and there’s five dollars and forty-three cents left on the card. So, somebody got the card,” Brown said.

Misty tells WSAZ she has been using the Direct Express card to receive money deposited from Social Security for her son for years.

In June, she began receiving notifications that payment on important bills had been denied. So, she says she logged into the Direct Express account and saw somehow, someone changed the address on the card from her home in Williamson, West Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That’s where bank records show the money was withdrawn.

“I don’t know anyone in Pennsylvania. Obviously, I don’t live near Pennsylvania. I’ve been to Pennsylvania one time and that was a couple years ago for the Pittsburgh Steelers game,” Brown said.

Misty immediately reached out to Direct Express to notify the company and report the fraud.

A month later, Misty called the company again.

“I called and they said it was declined. They said “declined. I said, how was it declined?” They told me that once a fraud claimed is declined that is usually the final answer. I was like no! I told them I would go to the White House if I had to because this is money I get to take care of my child,” Brown said.

So Misty began reaching out to police, the Better Business Bureau, several state agencies, and the FBI, but she was left with no answers.

That’s when Misty reached out to WSAZ.

“I watch WSAZ faithfully. I start at 5 in the morning and watch until 9 unless I have to go to work before that. I’ve seen what you guys can get things done for people,” Brown said.

So our team began making callings, to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, the Social Security Administration, Direct Express, and emailing the Bureau of the Fiscal Service -- a federal agency that uses Direct Express to provide benefits electronically.

After WSAZ reached out to the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office on July 11, 2022, Misty received a letter from the Attorney General’s Office days later that her case was being investigated.

A week after that letter arrived, a crew from WSAZ got in the car and headed to Williamson to speak with Misty about her case.

Our crew left Misty with the promise that we would be making more calls in hopes of getting her son’s benefits back.

When Sarah Sager got back to the station, she had a response from Direct Express to her email. A representative said they would be reaching out to Brown to discuss the matter further.

Moment later, Misty called Sarah with great news.

“You got your money back? Oh My Gosh! That’s amazing,” Sager said. “We just left your house how long ago?”

“Oh my gosh. I can’t believe you got your money back already,” said Sager.

Brown said, “Me either!”

Glad to make a difference for one family.

“Just doing my job, but I’m glad it helped,” Sager said.

“Well, you do it well,” Brown said.

“I appreciate that,” Sager said.

The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office says if you find yourself in a similar situation they want to hear from you.

You can file a complaint over the phone by calling 1-800-368-8808, or file a complaint on the West Virginia Attorney General’s website by >>> CLICKING HERE.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

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