PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) -- Michael Wright's beloved wife Mary died almost four years ago. Every so often, he still gets mail addressed to her, but this envelope was different.

Criminals using dead Arizonans' information to file fraudulent unemployment claims

Although Mary Wright died almost four years ago, her name was on an unemployment benefits card her husband recently received in the mail.

"It did catch me a little bit," Wright told 3 On Your Side.

It was a debit card from Arizona's Department of Economic Security. It had Mary's name on it, apparently one of 3.4 million fraudulent claims inundating the state's unemployment system.

AZ inundated with 3.4 million fraudulent unemployment claims

"Looks like [criminals] found a new vein to mine here, perhaps, because I hadn't heard of anybody deceased being used in this stuff," Wright said.

Brett Bezio, a spokesman for DES, says there is no state data on how many fraudulent unemployment claims have been filed using the personal information of people who have died. He explained that DES uses federal databases to flag claims that use deceased individuals' Social Security numbers.

"I could find no way to report something involving a deceased person," Wright said, adding that he has been waiting for more than a month for a call back from DES to clear up the fake account in his wife's name.

"I miss her very much," he said. "I wish things had turned out differently, and I wish she was here to deal with this, frankly."

DES

According to Bezio, in most cases involving suspected fraud, money is not loaded onto debit cards. Anyone who receives a card to which they are not entitled should file a fraud complaint. As 3 On Your Side has reported, it takes investigators an average of more than a month to respond.

DES asking people to report fraudulent unemployment cards
Arizona unemployment fraud victims wait more than a month for response from DES

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DES Director says a million unemployment claims on hold due to potential fraud
Gov. Ducey defends DES handling of unemployment claims
 

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