DES officials: "tens of thousands" could be affected by unemployment filing scam

A fraud scheme connected to unemployment claims has ballooned.

In June, FOX 10's Steve Nielsen reported on how dozens of Arizonans having been victimized by a Social Security scheme. Now, officials with the Arizona Department of Economic Security say tens of thousands could be affected.

All it takes is the scammer to get a person's Social Security number. Then, they file for unemployment in the victim's name, getting the funds wired to their account.

Victims may not even be aware of what has happened, and DES officials are already overwhelmed during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's very stressful to think that somebody is out there, gathering your information and then using it for their benefit," said Marisa Folz. FOX 10 spoke with Folz in June. At the time, she said she was confused when her boss asked her why she filed for unemployment, despite still having her job.

"I told them, 'Absolutely not,'" said Folz at the time. "So, I knew something was wrong immediately."

Folz called the Department of Economic Security and asked what address was associated with the unemployment filing.

"It got opened up under another address, so I said, 'It’s 100-percent fraud,'" Folz explained.

The United States Secret Service says a crime ring used stolen Social Security numbers to capitalize on unemployment funds.

"What I was also told by DES is that this would be a lifetime problem for me, now that my information was already out there, that I would need to regularly have credit reporting monitoring on my Social Security number, and this would be something that would go on forever," Folz said.

According to DES, Folz was told the unemployment filing in her name got cancelled. Folz, however, hasn't heard from officials since, and can't be too sure the claim did not get paid out.

"The reality is I don't know that unless I file for unemployment, and hopefully I don't have to do that," said Folz.

Folz says there are several other victims like her compromised by the scheme.

"I don't think they realized how big this was gonna grow," said Folz. "It's almost a pandemic of its own right?"

FOX 10 has reached out to DES for more info. This scam has slowed down payment processing as they get a handle on all these fraud cases. There is now more than 750 on staff at DES to take on calls as well.

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