PHOENIX - As fraud has rocked Arizona's unemployment system during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the victims are still waiting for answers as their accounts have been paused.
Those with the Department of Economic Security (DES) now suspect more than a million fraudulent claims have been filed, which has cost taxpayers a lot of money.
But for some, the crime is more personal.
Every day gets a little harder for Valley resident Tanya Guerrero as she continues to face unemployment.
"My mortgage is three months behind. Now I have HOA fees that are not getting paid. Everything’s accumulating. The bills don’t stop coming in," she said.
Tanya Guerrero was one of hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who lost a job as COVID-19 became widespread. She filed for pandemic unemployment assistance through DES, but she was blocked out.
After a few calls, she got through to uncover the problem.
"I spoke to an agent and gave him my information and he said it doesn’t coincide with the information that he has," she explained.
She then learned her unemployment account had already been fraudulently opened, saying, "They had my social security, my address, my birthday."
DES says it's been cracking down on new cases of fraud, requiring identity checks and creating a fraud task force with law enforcement after the agency's director said the agency has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to fraudulent accounts.
But for Guerrero, a real person who qualifies for unemployment, it’s now been 5 months and she still can’t get help.
"I call unemployment, they tell me to call the fraud department. I call the fraud department they don’t know what to do either so they tell me to call unemployment, so it’s a big run around," Guerrero explained.
She took matters into her own hands and was able to hack into the fraudulent account in her name by guessing the security questions. She has the account info and address of the fraudster, but it hasn’t helped her get benefits yet.
Everybody goes through hard times. And it’s just the people that are doing the right thing and stumble sometimes, what about us?" Guerrero said.
DES has adjudicators and investigators to work on cases like this one.
Guerrero says she’s working with an investigator and talks with them nearly every week, but the problem still hasn’t been solved.
DES didn’t provide FOX 10 with an update on Oct. 26 on where their case backlog stands, but at last check, it was still in the thousands.
For more reports on the Department of Economic Security, visit this link.