ARIZONA, USA — As Arizonans have sought unemployment benefits during the pandemic, scammers have found ways to take advantage of the system too.
Millions of claims have come through the Arizona Department of Economic Security during the pandemic, mixed in with legitimate people who need benefits, are fraudsters trying to get money.
DES Director Michael Wisehart said they’re using data like social security numbers, names, and addresses to fraudulently try and get benefits.
Wisehart said the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is bringing in more fraud to the state than regular unemployment insurance.
“If we paid on all the claims that we’re currently sitting on the obligation to the taxpayer in fraud claims would far exceed $10 billion which is completely unacceptable,” Wisehart said.
DES is now trying to weed out the legitimate claims from the fake ones.
“It is very difficult for us to discern the law-abiding, eligible Arizonan from the fraudster that leveraged a data breach - whether it was Equifax or Target or any other data breach that may have occurred,” Wisehart said.
The FBI warns the scammers are using stolen identities to apply for benefits.
Examples of fraudsters at work are debit cards that were mailed to Arizonans who never applied for unemployment. Some of those people received upwards of $5,000 to $6,000.
DES also took back $70 million in what’s believed to be fraud from out of state accounts.
“Fraudsters continue to get better and better at masking the fraud that they’re attempting to commit,” Wisehart said.
If you got a debit card or benefits that you did not apply for, here are some steps to take to report it: