PHOENIX — In just the past few days, there have been more than 100 people who have reached out to the Let Joe Know team about receiving unsolicited letters and debit cards from the AZ Department of Economic Security in recent weeks.
Those cards often hold thousands of dollars. Many people we spoke with told us when they contacted DES about giving it back, they got no response. These are also people who claim they never applied for the benefits in the first place.
After many emails back and forth with DES, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is now responding on the unexplained unemployment payments.
Monday, the office issued a statement that said they have also received an increase in fraud reports connected to unemployment. They believe that scammers are applying for benefits using other people’s personal information obtained in previous data breaches.
Those behind the fraud could face felony charges if convicted. Also, the office added that anyone who received this money, and are not entitled to it, could be charged if it is spent.
Here is what the Arizona Attorney General’s office is telling people to do if they have received documents or cards from DES:
- Destroy the debit card you received after you report the fraud to Arizona Department of Economic Security.
- File a criminal complaint with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office online or by calling (602) 542-8888 or (520) 628-6504.
- File a complaint with the Arizona Department of Economic Security.
- Alert your employer and Human Resources Department and ask them to flag any notice that comes from DES about a claim filed under your name.
- File a complaint with the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov. The FTC can also help with a one-year fraud alert on your credit, get free credit reports, and close fraudulent accounts in your name.
In the meantime, DES has said “a protocol was recently changed” for their PUA system. A protocol that had previously sent a debit card automatically to applicants when their bank account information could not be verified.
However, DES has failed to address why claims were still processed when information like birth dates and driver’s license numbers did not match.
In their latest statement to ABC15, DES said they were working with the U.S. Department of Labor to better detect fraud cases. They also added that, “efforts include cross matches with credible sources to verify identity, the expansion of queries to flag potentially suspicious claims and the adoption of nationally recommended fraud detection strategies…”
Also, the statement said that, “from February to June 22, 2020, there have been approximately 5,000 referrals of potential fraud in association with identity theft.”
Prior to the pandemic, they say they saw about 35 fraud cases a month.
They say they will be working to stop certain payments and recover ones already sent in error.
If this has happened to you, we want to know. Email us at Rebound@abc15.com.