While those who deserve unemployment benefits are still waiting for a check, others who never asked for it are getting it as the state’s mess continues.
It's happening even though the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) says they changed the protocol that allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars in payment cards to be sent to the wrong people.
Terri Underwood says she got what looked like a credit card from Bank of America.
"I couldn't figure out why I got it... I asked my husband, 'did you apply for anything?' But he said no."
It turns out it was an electronic payment card for unemployment she nor her husband ever applied to get.
ABC15's The Rebound Arizona team is hearing from people every day with the same story. So far, nearly 300 people have told us they received the "surprise" cards. The average amount on the card, reported by the people who checked, is around $6,400. That would mean nearly $2 million dollars in payment cards were sent to people who never applied for unemployment. However, those are just the people who told us.
DES has called it fraud. They say scammers get personal information online, file for unemployment pay, and set up bank accounts to get the direct deposits. In statements to us, DES has said if, "bank account information could not be verified because of client error or potential fraud... an electronic payment card was automatically issued to the address used in the claim."
But, that's the alarming part. It seems for months the state's been sending thousands of dollars to people with jobs or who are retired. They are people who would not be on any approved list for unemployment pay.
Mary Cassellius got one of the cards and wonders if it's really fraud or just a huge mistake. "There has to be a stop gap measure before someone sends a debit card to someone," Mary says.
After questioning them about the process, finally one month ago, DES told us they changed it. They say because of, "fraudulent activity, the protocol has been modified."
They also added, "Payment will not automatically be re-issued via electronic payment card."
The change supposedly happened the, "week of June 22nd." However, Terri and Mary say they each got their cards well after that protocol changed.
Imagine Darl Hanna's surprise when he also got an unemployment payment card while still working at the same job he has had for 38 years. Even more alarming, just a couple weeks ago Darl says he first got a notice that he would be getting the card.
"At the very bottom, it says, ‘sign here for a debit card,’ which I never sent back in" he says. Yet, Darl says he got the card anyway.
"I was shocked. On the (July) 8th, I put in that it was a fraudulent account and they sent this card out (on July 15th)! Is there not someone monitoring that I filed a fraudulent claim?"
One full month after the June 22 date DES supposedly changed its process, the mistaken money cards continue to be sent. On July 22, Philip let me know he got a card though, saying, "I've been retired for 20 years."
Also, on July 22, Russell says he received a payment card from DES.
However, Russell says, "I'm a resident of New Jersey... I've never set foot in Arizona in my life."
Most of these people want to know how to get the cards back to DES but aren’t given answers.
As Mary says, "you see on TV every night: people are desperate to get their funds. Sure, I'd like to have it, but it's not right, not mine."
DES will not answer our questions about why these cards continue to go out despite the process change. ABC15 is still asking how much unemployment money actually went out to people who never asked for it.
If you received an unemployment pay card, but never applied, here are some steps to take.