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Money sent to Arizonans who never applied for unemployment benefits came from identity theft

Several Arizonans say they've gotten debit cards full of money from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, but never filed an unemployment claim.`

PHOENIX — As millions of claims for unemployment benefits have been filed by Arizonans, people who have not filed a single claim say they’re getting debit cards full of money from the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Pauline James, a business owner, found one in her and her husband’s mail.

“It’s very, very disturbing,” James said. “It turns out there was $5,950 on it.”

She’s one of several people who say they got a card in the mail without ever filing a claim.

RELATED:  Valley woman says she mistakenly got money from DES while others wait for benefits

“I don’t know how somebody got our information or anything,” James said.

DES said claims are being filed across the country using stolen information, and someone who receives a card in the mail is likely the victim of identity theft. DES recommends destroying the card and filing a fraud claim with them here.

The Department tells 12 News in a statement they’ve confirmed 251 cases of fraud in Arizona and have more than doubled their staff to handle fraud claims.

A DES spokesperson tells 12 News protocol recently changed with the Electronic Payment Cards.

“Previously, in order to expedite claim processing for eligible individuals who had accidentally entered the wrong direct deposit information, an electronic payment card was automatically issued to the address used in the claim,” The spokesperson said.

Now the spokesperson said the payment will not be automatically issued on an electronic payment card and claimants will be notified that the payment was rejected.

Payments to those on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA had their payments delayed this week, as DES said they’re trying to identify fraud before sending payments.

It’s the latest in a series of issues DES has battled.

RELATED: DES having problems paying unemployment benefits

RELATED: Backlogged jobless benefits for Arizona gig workers could go out next week

“We all appreciate everything that they’re doing. They’re problem-solving, problem-solving, right and left and yet there are a lot more problems to solve,” State Representative Mitzi Epstein (D) said.

Epstein said with such high numbers of filings for benefits, the system wasn’t ready to handle it.

“The delays have been the worst of it, people need their money right now. They have to pay their rent now. They have to put food on the table now, and the delays of weeks and weeks of time are a big problem,” Epstein said.

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