Fraudulent unemployment claims filed in Illinois continue to clog the state’s system designed to provide financial assistance to people who recently lost their jobs.
According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 42,496 fraudulent claims have been identified in the regular employment system since March 1.
Additionally, the IDES said 169,506 fraudulent claims have been identified in the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program since May 11. The program provides benefits for many self-employed workers and independent contractors who have been determined ineligible for state unemployment benefits.
Amy Buikema of suburban Lisle is employed as a financial compliance associate. However, she recently received a letter and a debit card after someone filed an unemployment claim in her name.
“It definitely had my salary information for my current employment, so they knew pretty much everything about me,” Buikema said.
Buikema notified the IDES of the fraud and she put a freeze on her credit to protect her personal information from being used by someone else. But she said the state failed to respond to her in the weeks several weeks following her initial complaint.
NBC 5 contacted the IDES and inquired about Buikema’s concerns. A spokesperson said the department is working on large numbers of fraud complaints.
Buikema later received a letter from the IDES explaining that the claim was closed due to fraud.
“It feels good. Hopefully, it’s all behind us and I still have my credit frozen,” Buikema said.
Unemployment fraud is the top complaint to NBC 5 Responds.
The Illinois Department of Employment Services said debit cards that arrive unexpectedly may not have money pre-loaded, but fraudsters may try to access a victim’s account information in order to divert payments to another card or account.
Chris Kanich is an associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He urged people to use strong and unique online passwords to protect their identities.
“I think a great thing to do to be proactive would be to get your freeze credit report from the three main agencies,” Kanich said. “Review it for any credit lines that are open in your name because you might have already had your identity stolen and not even know it yet.”
If you think you have been victimized, IDES asks that you visit the agency’s website or contact the agency at (800) 814-0513 to file a report.
IDES said it will investigate the report and forward findings to law enforcement.