PHOENIX — Months after the state first knew about unemployment fraud, the Arizona Department of Economic Security is setting up a task force to deal with it.
It's happening as the fraud grows, involving more and more innocent Arizonans. But there are questions about why it's so late and if it's enough.
For a while, every day, Steven Still got another reason something is very wrong with the Arizona unemployment system. So far, Still has received 7 unemployment cash cards but never applied for benefits.
For months, the Rebound Arizona team has pushed the Department of Economic Security (DES) about what they're doing to stop the fraud. And recently, we asked why are we seeing dozens and dozens of new complaints with a new twist?
While Still's address was used, none of the cards are in his name. Matt Acton had the same thing happen. "They all looked like junk mail at first," he says.
DES says they have "become aware" of cards sent with "names of individuals who don't reside at the location." They say they've seen "a high number" of fraud cases in the last two weeks but say in "most instances, payment was blocked."
DES has finally announced a task force to deal with it. A statement says it will involve federal, state and local agencies. But much of that has already been in place. In fact, DES says, it "formalizes an existing, ongoing partnership with law enforcement."
Maybe it will mean quicker answers for victims. Most people who let me know they received these fraud cards say they've waited weeks to get answers once notifying DES. So their questions went unanswered, like why they received the cards, should they worry and are the people with names on the cards getting the assistance they need?
DES also talked about a "front end identity check" to prevent fraud saying they are close to implementing it.
Meanwhile, more Arizonans are going to be involved in this fraud. If you received a card but didn't apply for benefits, DES says you can get more information here.
Here's more about unemployment benefit fraud.