PHOENIX – When identity theft criminals flooded Arizona’s unemployment system, it led to a lot of problems and lost money during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Department of Economic Security says it’s made big strides in cracking down on fraud, but some still remain impacted by the issue, like Valley residents Bob Williams and Jim Waddell.
They say their identities were likely stolen.
“It’s scary,” Williams says after receiving an unemployment debit card he never applied for. “Identity theft is the only thing I can think of,” he says.
Bob Williams is retired and he’s never had a job in Arizona. But yet when the mail came last week, the debit card arrived. “Addressed to me and I checked with the bank. It’s a legitimate card,” he said.
The letter Jim Waddell got last week from DES said he applied for unemployment, but he says he never did.
He’s had issues with identity theft before, saying, “I know with somebody that did this knows part of my information. Somehow they got the name Jimmy Waddell.”
When DES got slammed with nearly a million fraudulent claims in July, they took steps to stop accounts and used outside vendors to better identify real claimants.
But FOX 10 continues to hear from Arizonans who never applied for cards.
Williams said he called DES and is waiting to hear back from a fraud investigator. He said at first thought it was a stimulus check but is happy now he didn’t activate the money.
“The card is in my name. All I have to do is call the bank and activate and whatever money is in there is mine,” Williams said.
The attorney general’s office said so far, no one has been charged for using unemployment benefits that were not applied for. The crime would be the same as theft.
The office also said on Sept. 29, they’ve received more than 1,000 criminal complaints since June.
Williams said he’s going to sign up for a credit monitoring service.