CHICAGO (CBS) — A debit card nightmare has left an 80-year-old Chicago woman with no way to access her Social Security money.
Her family said it has been going on for weeks, with no solutions from the government or the card company. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov set out to find out how big a problem it is.
LaShawna Walker said she has had to call Direct Express far too often – trying to activate her 80-year-old grandmother Ida Walker’s debit card.
Instead of help, she gets nowhere – on hold, with a recorded message advising, “Or, if you prefer, you may call again at a later time.”
“That’s what we’ve been getting every time we call,” LaShawna Walker said.
That means her grandmother can’t access her Social Security money.
“She can’t purchase anything, and as far as rent goes – rent, cellphones – can’t pay anything, because the card is not working,” LaShawna Walker said.
Walker said even when she’s gotten a human, she’s put on hold – for an hour, at least.
“It’s very stressful,” LaShawna Walker said. “It’s mostly a headache.”
On its website, Direct Express states that its debit card is offered to those who get federal benefits electronically. LaShawna Walker said when her father called the Social Security Administration directly, an employee acknowledged there were Direct Express issues.
“They told my dad that they’re having a lot of problems. People are calling in and complaining about the problems that they’re having with the cards,” she said.
The cards that are affected have number starting with 5332 – as Ida Walker’s cards do.
Kozlov called Direct Express herself, and spent 51 minutes on hold – only to have an employee tell her she had to submit a subpoena, by fax, to the company with her questions. That’s right, a subpoena.
Kozlov was also advised she could go to the Social Security Office. An SSA spokesman said he would look into the matter, and later referred her to the Treasury Department for concerns about Direct Express.
The SSA spokesman said he would follow up with Ida Walker directly, despite Kozlov sending a consent for release form from Walker to him.
So exactly how many people are having trouble with their Direct Express benefit cards remains unclear. But look for more to come.