PHOENIX - Another fraud crackdown at Arizona's unemployment agency has affected Arizonans waiting for much-needed payments as the COVID-19 continues.
The Department of Economic Security (DES) says the vast majority of the accounts they froze are high risk of fraud. But, within hours of the new round of crackdowns, real claimants said their accounts were impacted.
Emanuela Bartlett from Surprise was back to school shopping for her son two weeks ago. But, her card was declined.
"Finally next week, he’s going to start in person," she said.
When she went to pay, her card was declined.
"It was kind of embarrassing, too, because I knew I had money on the card and I cannot access my card online and I was shut off," Bartlett explained.
It was shut off by DES. The agency says 43,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claimants were placed on hold for potentially fraudulent activity.
DES cracking down on fraud, but some Valley residents are still concerned
The company she worked for filed for bankruptcy and was shut down in March. She’s been collecting unemployment problem free since then.
43K unemployment accounts frozon over alleged fraud
The Arizona Department of Economic Security said it has prevented 43,000 unemployment accounts from receiving benefits after those accounts were flagged as potentially fraudulent.
In July, the department closed 28,000 accounts suspected of fraud, cutting benefits to many people who had legitimate claims.
About 3,800 accounts out of the 28,000 closed in July, or just under 14%, were later found legitimate and the residents were repaid, according to the department.
DES tells FOX 10 it's still flooded with fraudulent claims and have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud. In the last few weeks, the agency received more than a million PUA claims which they say proves high amounts of fraud.
In response, the agency created a task force with law enforcement and is working with ID.me to verify identities before paying out.
"Now there are people like me that are paying consequences because they cannot do their job," Emanuela Bartlett said of DES.
She filled out her ID.me two weeks ago when her card was frozen but is still waiting for her money.
DES says 18% of the people who were placed on hold because of "high risk for fraud" have filled out an ID.me and had their accounts reinstated.