(KMOV) – As a bank collected millions of people’s tax dollars to dole out social security payments on pre-paid debit cards, one recipient wanted to know who was responsible for stealing her identity and why she can’t get her money back.
Linda Littles said she does not have enough money to fix the furnace inside her mobile home. She lives from one social security payment to the next and recently lost nearly a thousand dollars to thieves.
“I never thought about it I trust people and look where it got me,” said Littles
She said a couple of women who lived a few trailers down stole the numbers off her Direct Express card, the card issued by Comerica Bank. That is the bank which distributes social security payments to millions of recipients.
Little reported the theft to the sheriff, the bank and both Missouri senators but still has not received her money.
“Unfortunately one of the problems with benefit hijacking is people have not been able to get their money back or not for time it can take a lot of layers of bureaucracy,” said Rebecca Valles.
She is an expert in electronic benefits and testified at a senate hearing about some of the pitfalls. She said distributing benefits is big business.
“Who is profiting off this? It’s a great question, in the move to electronic payment one bank actually got the contract,” said Valles.
According to the Center for Public Integrity, Comerica Bank originally offered to distribute Direct Express cards at no cost to the federal government but then reversed course.
To date, taxpayers have paid Comerica $30 million. The exclusive contract also allows the bank to collect ATM fees, interest off unspent benefits and payments from Visa and MasterCard when cards are swiped.
“Every time you call the direct express you get a different person and no one knows what is going on,” said Littles.
She feels like she’s just a number who’s been brushed aside. Even with a police report and documentation outlining the fraud, Littles can’t get anyone to help her.
“I have real financial problems as a result of this.”
News 4’s Chris Nagus reached out to Comerica Bank and a representative told him an investigator will contact Littles.
Stay with News 4 and KMOV.com as we continue to follow this story.